'There is an infatuation with the EFF' - analysts

2018-11-21 16:26
Julius Malema. Foto: Felix Dlangamandla

Julius Malema. Foto: Felix Dlangamandla

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If you were asleep or out of the country for the past year and suddenly saw news of the EFF's attacks on Minister of Public Enterprises Pravin Gordhan, you'd be forgiven for thinking the writer must not have had the facts wrong.

Less than a year ago the EFF was still on a crusade against then-president Jacob Zuma and championing Gordhan's efforts to stop the capture of the state by corrupt forces. But a year is a millennium in politics and the EFF now sings a very different tune.

The party is accusing Gordhan of being corrupt himself and claims his daughter's company benefited unduly from tender deals with state departments. Their accusations have been delivered in true EFF style – with strong undertones of racism and little evidence to back them up so far. They also attacked the Zondo commission of inquiry, calling the integrity of its work into question.

So, why the EFF's about turn? With the general election in sight, what is their endgame?

"The EFF are masters of disruptive politics. They trade conspiracies on the streets where they're accountable to no one, while benefiting from functioning formal institutions such as the courts. The party practises the most insincere and disingenuous politics that play on genuine issues of society but with no aim to find actual solutions, only to remain the disruptor," says political analyst Ralph Mathekga.

"Their strategy is effective because what they say is never entirely false but it's not entirely true either. Rather, it is embellished for the political game."

By attacking the pillars of Cyril Ramaphosa's Cabinet, rich private individuals and big corporates, the party is now effectively saying that they are not interested in anti-corruption that involves the crumbs. Forget VBS Mutual Bank and other 'small-time heists', they are fighting the system that allowed people like the Oppenheimers and Ramaphosas to accumulate wealth in the first place while the poor suffered.

Why is it so effective?

Because there is always a hint of truth in their accusations.

"These attacks do not land on deaf ears. There is an infatuation with the EFF, even among the black middle class, because they tackle issues of race at a level that resonates with people," says Mathekga.

Perhaps after the fall of former finance minister Nhlanhla Nene, who was caught in a lie he had to fess up to to the Zondo commission, the EFF thinks that if it applies enough pressure, the same will happen to Gordhan.

With his endorsement of a capitalist market system, Gordhan is a particularly ideologically convenient target for the EFF, says political analyst Professor Susan Booysen.

"Gordhan has so much political power, in a sense he is an icon of the Ramaphosa system. To bring him down would be something that the EFF would sing about all the way to the ballot box. That would be the strongest campaign message they could have and they would derive great ideological content from that," she says.

But in the end, the party might be tripped up by the very rhetoric that has gotten them this far.

"Their rhetoric is so emotive and leaves very little space for rational debate. It harks back to the game of pseudo-innocence Zuma used to play, which had a huge element of irrationality, except we are in a different political era," Booysen says.

"That raises the question whether they are out of pace. One of the trademarks of this era is a hypersensitivity around accountability. And by making wild and unsubstantiated claims the EFF is not showing respect to the intellect of the voters they are trying to persuade."

Read more on:    eff  |  julius malema  |  pravin gordhan  |  state capture commission of inquiry  |  politics

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