5 reasons why the EFF's red berets matter

2014-06-20 14:51
(Werner Beukes, Sapa)

(Werner Beukes, Sapa)

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2014-06-20 08:50

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Cape Town - The bold red outfits worn by the Economic Freedom Fighters certainly get them noticed, but what’s the point? Is it all just playing dress-up or is there meaning behind it? News24 finds out.

1) The colour red

Colours are used to represent a political standpoint. Red flags were first used in the 1848 French Revolution to represent “the blood of angry workers” and it has remained the colour for the political left – being taken up by socialist, communist and other left-wing radicals.

Earlier this year, EFF leader Julius Malema told reporters: “Red is originally an EFF colour because it represents the blood that has been shed by those who have died during the struggle for economic freedom,” he said. He pointed to the Marikana and Sharpeville massacres as symbolic of that struggle.

2) The military beret

Malema claims the military style beret had become a symbol synonymous with leaders of revolutionary struggles, such as Chez Guevara, Fidel Castro and Thomas Sankara.

The round, flat caps or ‘berets’ originate from the Middle Ages in France, where shepherds in the Pyrenees Mountains used them as protection from the weather. In 1889 they were taken up by the French military, later coming to the attention of the British military during the First World War. By the mid-20th Century they had become popular as military headgear across the globe.

3) Che Guevara

One of the most famous pictures of the Argentine revolutionary Che Guevara shows him wearing a black beret with a red star. Black is usually associated with anarchism, representing the absence of all oppressive structures. The five-pointed red star is a symbol of communism and has been said to represent the five fingers of a worker’s hand.  The star, along with the hammer and sickle, represented the Soviet Union under the rule of the Communist Party.

4) Overalls and cleaners outfits

Parliamentary dress dictates that MPs may not display symbols of their respective political parties in the National Assembly and should dress in accordance with the dignity of the house.

Despite this, when the EFF’s MPs were sworn in, they shunned traditional dress. The men dressed in red overalls and the women dressed as cleaners with headscarves and aprons.

The EFF’s Floyd Shivambu claims the outfits represent working class South Africans. He has previously said: "The working class and poor now know they've got representatives in Parliament. There is no other organisation which associates itself with the struggles of the poor."

5) The blue beret

On the opposite side of politics, conservative parties across the globe have used blue or dark blue as their colour. Though an exception to this is the US, where the Democrats – who traditionally represent labour rights – use blue. The conservative Republicans use red.

The Democratic Alliance adopted blue berets during the election, telling Sapa at the time that the beret itself was for marketing purposes and that the DA associated itself with the hard hat. Hard hats traditionally refer to uniformed soldiers of a regular army, as opposed to a guerrilla. But in politics “hard hat conservatives” has also been used to refer to blue collar workers – symbolising the protective metal or plastic helmets worn by construction workers.


- News24
Read more on:    da  |  eff  |  floyd ­shivambu  |  julius malema  |  politics  |  elections 2014
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