EFF’s red berets run out

2013-11-17 14:00

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Stocks of hats dwindle as more supporters begin to swell the ranks of Malema’s new party

Stocks of red berets have started running out and elsewhere, they are being snatched off the heads of members as support swells for Julius Malema’s Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF).

Barely a month after the party’s official launch at Marikana in North West, the “Berets”, as EFF members are known, are making their presence felt.

They can be seen wearing their red berets on street corners, in public places, hangout spots and even at funerals where they go to recruit new members.

This week, City Press attended EFF events in three provinces. We spoke to 10 leaders in six provinces to assess their strength and strategy ahead of next year’s general elections.

Despite isolated reported complaints about the “personality cult” around Malema, the young party has been growing.

»?Last weekend, party members hung around in clusters in EFF gear around voter registration venues.

»?Today, organisers are scrambling to get supporters to Polokwane where Malema will appear in court tomorrow on charges of money laundering and racketeering.

»?On Friday night, Gauteng professionals packed an EFF event in Midrand addressed by the party’s latest catch, advocate Dali Mpofu, while supporters turned out in numbers for a night vigil in Umlazi, Durban.

»?The EFF is active on social networking sites, announcing and reporting on its activities. It has almost 30?000 followers on Twitter and Malema has more than 380?000, more than double that of the Presidency.

Support Base 

The party is still crunching numbers but financial services group, Nomura South Africa, last month predicted the EFF would get 4% of next year’s vote (16 parliamentary seats).

The DA’s current polls on the EFF’s chances predict 7% of the vote, said a DA insider.

Although the EFF is aiming to pull in people of all ages, a Pondering Panda survey in July showed that 26% of 18- to 34-year-old voters would choose it.

Voter registration figures show that only one in four registered voters are under 30.

Many EFF supporters are disgruntled ANC members. There are so many of them that some ANC insiders describe the EFF as an “internal ANC rebellion”.

It has also become a bargaining chip for those wanting better positions in return for remaining in the ANC, as happened during Cope’s birth in 2009.

Malema was expelled from the governing party last year.


»?Flashpoints and strikes:

Malema rose to notoriety following his expulsion from the ANC last year by addressing community protests and striking mineworkers.

The EFF has supported many recent community and service delivery protests in places like Mooiplaas in Gauteng, Khayelitsha in Cape Town and Sterkspruit in the Eastern Cape.

Party organisers plan to start a trade union after next year’s elections. This could absorb disgruntled Cosatu members, especially after the infighting and suspensions in the labour federation.

»?ANC leaders are privately concerned that the EFF will hollow out the ANC from within. Former ANC members who are joining the EFF are not giving up their membership, said EFF North West provincial convenor Alfred Mutsi.

“The ANC’s constitution is clear, if you join another organisation, you are out of the ANC. The reason why many of the ANC’s branch meetings aren’t quorating is because our names are still on the lists.”

»?Visibility and fashion:

The EFF has no money, but it has the people to convey its message.

One of its leaders, Andile Mngxitama, said: “We are replacing money with people. Wherever we go, there is excitement that is generated.

“If you wear a red beret, you get stopped every other second. It doesn’t happen if you wear an ANC or Agang T-shirt.”

He said the demand for the red berets “generally exceeds supply”. Northern Cape coordinator Mbuyiselo April complained that their stocks have run out.

Mutsi said berets were stolen from people’s heads.

“When we can’t give people berets, they just grab them off our heads and run away.”


Last weekend’s voter registration drive also gave people a taste of the tactics the EFF could use to attract votes.

In Gauteng the only visible parties were the EFF, the ANC and the DA.

DA MP Ian Ollis, who moved around polling stations in Alexandra and Sandton, said EFF agents were not inside polling stations, “but stood outside in the street in groups of about four. Some of them were marching militantly with boots and berets, even the women.”

However, they were absent in the more affluent voting districts.

DA agents also reported seeing EFF members with guns around polling stations in Midvaal.

But Mngxitama said: “The carrying of guns is not nationally sanctioned. We are a legal party operating within the confines of the law. We are militant but not militaristic.”

Around Cape Town, EFF members allegedly led a group of residents in destroying an Independent Electoral Commission stand in an informal settlement and blocked politicians from entering.

Activities by EFF members have been reported in all provinces, but the red berets have been most visible in Limpopo, the North West and Gauteng.


Beret-wearing residents, one of them apparently drunk, gave top ANC leaders like deputy president Cyril Ramaphosa a hostile reception when he visited Seshego last Saturday.

Limpopo provincial convenor Michael Mathebe has admitted that support is not yet as strong in Malema’s home region, Capricorn, as they would like it to be.

It has about 3?300 out of Limpopo’s 20?000 signed-up members.

North West

Former ANC councillors who were removed from their positions after the party’s revision of its list process and allies of murdered councillor Moss Phakoe are crossing to the EFF here.

The EFF is also finding fertile ground among disgruntled mineworkers and it chose Marikana, the site of last year’s mineworkers’ massacre, for its official launch.


On Friday night, accountants, lawyers, engineers and businesspeople packed an EFF event in Midrand’s Protea Hotel?–also home to the ANC’s award-winning Lilliesleaf branch?– to listen to the party’s latest catch, advocate Dali Mpofu.

“We need open and accountable governance without fear on the part of citizens that state resources or state agencies will be used against them,” Mpofu told the audience.

Members were told not to wear their berets to make those who were not wearing them didn’t wear party gear feel more comfortable.

The EFF has also approached well-known people with an ANC background to join it.

Outspoken communications consultant Kay Sexwale declined saying ANC “cadres” should “not throw in the towel when things do not go our way”.

Northern Cape

Mineworkers around Kuruman and former Cope members make up the bulk of EFF members here.

Provincial coordinator Mbuyiselo April said: “Most of our members are from the ANC. I don’t think Cope exists any more. We took most of their members.”


One of the EFF’s “most challenging” provinces, where support for the ANC is at an all-time high, managed to hold a well-attended night vigil in Umlazi on Friday.

Trademark “Vote EFF, what are you scared of?” posters went up on street poles, unlike in most other provinces where a lack of money meant no posters.

Eastern Cape

The EFF has not yet established a strong support base here, but a DA campaigner said red berets have been spotted in service delivery hot spots like the ANC-controlled Sterkspruit municipality.


About five ANC councillors have defected and will contest by-elections under the EFF banner, while ANC leaders are trying to woo back high-profile defectors with text messages.

There was talk here that the EFF had 290?000 signed-up members here, but this could not be confirmed.

Western Cape

Red beret wearers have been imitating “poo protests” in this province, while the EFF has also been actively canvassing support among farmworkers and migrant and foreign labourers.

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