Parliament could kill EFF

2014-05-25 15:00

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The possible sequestration of Economc Freedom Fighters (EFF) leader Julius Malema and his subsequent disqualification from Parliament for failing to settle a R16?million tax bill is generally viewed as a mark of dishonour and disgrace.

But it could also probably be the best thing to happen to the EFF. It would allow him to be free to work for the party full time outside of Parliament.

The EFF announced themselves with a colourful and defiant presence in Parliament this week, which was meant to make a statement about the return of the expelled son – to haunt the ANC.

Nobody quite believed their mantra that the red overalls and domestic worker outfits showed their identification with the poor.

Combined with their refusal to vote during the election of the new Speaker and their refusal to eat government food at legislatures, the EFF did their fair share of gimmicks to get attention.

The rise of Julius Malema culminated this week in the EFF’s colourful and defiant presence in Parliament. It was meant to make a statement about the return of the expelled ANC son. The EFF got more than 6% of the national vote in elections earlier this month. Picture: Schalk van Zuydam/AP

But they know that, at some point, the media will lose interest and they will have to earn their keep within parliamentary committees.

The immediate reality is that their core leadership at national and provincial level has to get down to boring and laborious work as MPs and MPLs.

It is not quite the same thing as addressing meetings and making jokes about Zuma and his wives. The first question is whether they have the temperament for the tedious paperwork of legislation. The second is whether sitting in legislatures will help the EFF stay relevant in the long term.

In answering the first question, I think the perception that EFF members are uneducated masters of chaos and mayhem, as portrayed by Zapiro in a cartoon, is simplistic and wrong.

No doubt the majority are inexperienced in Parliament, but that does not make them stupid. Almost all ANC MPs in 1994 were first-time parliamentarians but that did not detract from the great work they did.

As for the second question about the legislatures making them lose relevance, I actually believe that they need to think differently.

Their president, Malema, has already said they need to redeploy some leaders from Parliament to their head office, if they can finance those positions.

I believe their relevance and popularity depends on them working with and establishing their presence in all communities across the country. The EFF is often compared with the Congress of the People (Cope) and Bantu Holomisa’s United Democratic Movement (UDM).

The obvious fear is that they will engage in infighting that could tear them apart like Cope.

Clearly, among the mistakes Cope made was to send all their experienced people to Parliament and thus end their everyday engagements with the people who had put them into Parliament in the first place. A full focus on Parliament with all its perks could be the death of EFF.

I met a new EFF MP during the late lunch break caused by the DA’s ill-advised contestation of the Speaker position in Parliament. He told me: “We have hardly been here for two hours and I am already bored. And to imagine we are still going to have five years of this.”

EFF MP Andile Mngxitama wrote this week: “As we move to Parliament, we would do well to remember that warning of Lenin about the dangers of ‘parliamentary cretinism’: the excessive belief that Parliament can change society towards a revolution without mass struggle outside the corridors of Parliament.”

Such words are noble and poignant, but it is the deeds we will remember, (honourable) Mngxitama.

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