EFF must stop regression

2018-04-01 06:29
File: AFP

File: AFP

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The mother of the toddler had just alighted from the aeroplane with her child and had begun walking towards baggage when it suddenly dawned on the little one that the ride was over.

He started screaming that he wanted to get back on the plane, broke free of his mother’s hand and started running towards the gate from which we had come. The mother grabbed him and he, as rebellious toddlers do, lay on the ground and kicked wildly. The mother ignored the stares of fellow passengers and dragged the kicking and screaming youngster. The attitude of onlookers ranged from sympathy to amusement to judgement. But she soldiered on.

That scene returned to this lowly newspaperman’s memory in recent weeks as the nation watched the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) increasingly behave like a rebellious toddler. The party, whose leadership had shown signs of maturity and inventiveness in recent years, has of late been sliding backwards. The EFF of 2018 is looking and sounding more like the ANC Youth League that some in its hierarchy led before being kicked out of the governing party.

The EFF’s antics took a ridiculous turn in February, when its MPs absented themselves from the parliamentary sitting during which Cyril Ramaphosa was elected state president.

At the time the party’s leader, Julius Malema, was quoted as saying that “the EFF will not participate in the election of a new president to replace Zuma because we do not want to legitimise anyone from the ruling party”.

What twisted logic is that? The candidate who the ANC puts forward gets to become president because 62% of the South African electorate voted for that party. The person does not get delegitimised because a 6% party says so. They get delegitimised by their conduct and disdain for the Constitution and the republic, as happened with the licentious kleptomaniac who used to occupy that office.

A day later, the same Malema was explaining why the party would be present at Ramaphosa’s state of the nation address but would not be disrupting it.

“Our people are longing for the day when the state of the nation is delivered in a peaceful environment. We are giving Cyril that chance. And then, he must do the right thing ... I don’t want a situation where he says ‘no you never gave me a chance, you just started from the onset’,” Malema said.

Since then Malema has deteriorated into a screaming windbag, a far cry from the articulate orator that even his detractors conceded he had become. All his speeches and public utterances are now mostly rants about whites. He has used these rants about whites as a substitute for a cogent message about what the EFF has to offer South Africa in the post-Jacob Zuma era. It is as if he believes that fulminating about whites equals militancy.

Which is a pity, because the EFF benches in Parliament and the provincial legislatures eclipse the ANC’s vastly larger representation in terms of intellectual punch.

According to the programmes the EFF announced earlier this year, they were going to mount activism around the state of the public health sector. This was a welcome move because if there is any area of life that most exemplifies the continuing oppression of the majority, it is in public health and public education.

But then, apart from a couple of marches here and there, the EFF has had little appetite for making this important intervention a priority. The party has found it much easier to grandstand about land and the ousting of Nelson Mandela Bay Mayor Athol Trollip.

Disruptive and anarchic behaviour – such as land invasions in towns and cities – have proven a much simpler tactic to keep the party top of mind.

The departure of Zuma and his replacement with someone who could read and construct a whole paragraph and who did want to steal like a scorpion fly would have happened sooner or later. Of all the political parties, the EFF is the last that should have been taken by surprise, given the hell it gave Zuma. It should have been ready to deal with a more normalised political environment without having to resort to shock tactics and extreme language.

Unlike the DA, which can’t make up its mind as to whether it wants to be an old age home knitting club or a political party contesting for power, the EFF has a distinct, strong identity. It has a crystal clear vision of the kind of South Africa it wants. Whether or not this future is practical is neither here nor there. It is occupying a political space that was waiting to be filled.

When confronted about its extreme and infantile behaviour, the EFF refuses to listen. It has now concocted a conspiracy theory that the media is threatened by its supposed militancy on issues such as expropriation of land without compensation. At no point does it stop to ponder whether there is validity in the criticism and whether the party needs to reflect on its behaviour and posture.

Read more on:    eff

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