Melanie Verwoerd

AfriForum vs EFF: Who has most to gain?

2018-04-25 09:05
EFF flag. (AFP)

EFF flag. (AFP)

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The Irish have an expression which they use when someone does something really stupid. It is not seen as swearing (the Irish regard very few words as swearing), yet it does describe the stupidity of the person/s behind the action/s very accurately. 

"Fecken eejit/s!" they would exclaim whilst shaking their heads in disbelief. This was exactly the same expression I wanted to use last week when AfriForum announced that they were going to prosecute Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) leader Julius Malema, if the NPA fails to do so. 

The reactions to their press conference were swift and fairly predictable (and just slightly more diplomatic than my Irish reaction). Amongst other things, AfriForum was accused of being racist and opportunistic. 

They indignantly denied both accusations, claiming that their action was based on a matter of principle. Although I really find it a bit thick of AfriForum to claim the position of moral guardian of our society, I am willing (for the sake of the argument) to accept that their motives are not simply racist. 

Without a doubt AfriForum would like to show their members (many who are racist) that they are "serving" them. In addition, they also hope to add a few new members as part of their never-ending expansion drive. 

Having moved to AfriForum with great fanfare over a year ago, I am sure that advocate Gerrie Nel is also under personal and professional pressure to finally deliver something. Whatever the motives behind the decision, it could well turn out to be the worst one AfriForum has ever made. 

Even with a tiny bit of political insight they should realise that the party which will ultimately benefit most from these actions is the EFF and not themselves. Whether they actually proceed with a prosecution or not, they have already given Malema and thus the EFF political and media mileage they could have only dreamt of.

With Jacob Zuma gone, the EFF was desperate for some political oxygen. With free education less of a hot potato, the one issue with tremendous populist mileage left to them was land. Of course, also on this issue, AfriForum and others played beautifully into Malema's hands with their fear mongering and predictable reactions. 

But the ANC swiftly responded and have been working hard to move the narrative away from the EFF and towards a moderate and responsible position. Next Malema tried to create a mini-coup in Nelson Mandela Bay, which failed spectacularly.

With Winnie Madikizela-Mandela's death he succeeded to some extend to rise again, but while his intervention at her funeral might have earned cheers at the time, it has since boomeranged somewhat. However, within days, this announcement by AfriForum gave him all the oxygen he needed. And boy, will he use it.

Their action has also strengthened the hands of the more radical anti-Cyril Ramaphosa faction in the ANC. This faction is close to Malema and his narratives and will use race talk widely to gain support. 

If AfriForum has any sense and if they are responsible about serving their members, they should be strengthening the hands of the moderate ANC faction and also that of the president. Despite what AfriForum might believe, this faction and President Cyril Ramaphosa are the only ones who can truly secure the future of their constituents. 

If at some stage in the future Ramaphosa is replaced by, for example, a (David) Mabuza-Malema alliance, it will not bode well for those who align themselves with AfriForum. And so, when reacting to the land - or any other politically sensitive issue, AfriForum should stop retreating into the lager and rather think how they can positively contribute to the debate and work with the moderate majority in the ANC and country. 

Prosecuting Malema or responding with fear and threats to the land issue is not the way to do it. Ultimately the question remains what the end-game is with this announcement? Is it to get Malema in jail, to distract him or just to show some “kragdadigheid”? 

Whatever it might be, it will not end well for AfriForum and by extension, those who they claim to represent, because the only winners will be Malema and the EFF. 

- Melanie Verwoerd is a former ANC MP and South African Ambassador to Ireland. 

Disclaimer: News24 encourages freedom of speech and the expression of diverse views. The views of columnists published on News24 are therefore their own and do not necessarily represent the views of News24.

Read more on:    afriforum  |  eff  |  julius malema
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