EFF: We are ready to govern the country

The Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) will look to exploit the juniorisation of South African voters as it prepares to take up decision-making roles ahead of next year’s general elections.

On the sidelines of the organisation’s fifth anniversary this week, deputy president Floyd Shivambu and chairperson Dali Mpofu said the EFF could now boast paid-up membership of almost half a million.

“Definitely half a million because we are existing in 90% of South Africa’s wards,” said Shivambu.

“So, a requirement of a region to go to its elective conference is that it should have launched branches of the EFF in 90% of the wards.”

In recent years, the ANC has placed its paid-up membership figures at about 1 million.

The EFF’s first attempt at the polls in the 2014 general elections saw the party gain 6% of the lion’s share of votes.

Independent polls by market research company Ipsos have the EFF coming in at 7% for next year’s elections.

The party says it is not conducting any internal polls, nor does it have a specific targeted outcome. It is rather focusing on getting face time with all prospective voters.

“Out of the 1.1 million votes that we got in 2014, at least 450 000 – if not more – came from Gauteng,” said Shivambu.

“We realised that we spent a lot of time in Gauteng. We got to speak to almost everyone. But in KwaZulu-Natal we did not find any expression because we didn’t go to that area. So, our science in terms of elections is: Speak to people and they will vote for you.

“The 2019 elections represent a complete generational shift in terms of the voters’ roll. If you check, voters between the ages of 18 and 40 make up possibly about 60% or 65% of the voters’ roll. The ANC gets weaker on younger voters, and that is where we are strong. So, that is the science that is going to give us power. The juniorisation of the voter’s roll gives us power; that is the most important thing.”

Shivambu admitted that the party’s reluctance to take up positions in government after the 2016 polls, despite its powerful kingmaker status, was because the organisation was too young. “For the majority of people who became EFF councillors, it was their first job. It could have been a disaster. But now we have paid detailed attention to the functioning of the state at all levels.

“So, we were not going to rush into governance before we were ready for it in 2016. Despite the politics, objectively, it is because we were three years old. We were not ready.”

Mpofu said the party’s election manifesto would be far more detailed than it was in 2014. Whereas the previous one was “aspirational”, he said, the new one would illustrate the EFF’s readiness to govern. Despite the changes to the manifesto, it would not shy away from the party’s fundamental seven pillars.

When asked which Cabinet posts the party would be gunning for, Shivambu said the EFF would not participate in the current configuration of Cabinet. The Cabinet would first have to be reduced to between 15 and 18 ministries.

On the land question, the party leaders said they were not concerned that the ANC could be bluffing about expropriation without compensation because the majority of South Africans had gotten behind the idea, leaving little room for the ANC to opt out.

On Zulu King Goodwill Zwelithini calling for the Ingonyama Trust to be defended, Shivambu said changes to the Constitution would assist the embattled trust.

“Actually, our intervention will help that because if anyone were to take it to the Constitutional Court, it would never pass in its current form. It is not constitutionally compliant.”

The EFF is up for a gruelling 2019. Its next elective conference takes place in December that year. Asked about managing the process of contestation in the party, the leaders said they would not allow the party to tear itself apart. “You know the pain we went through in starting this organisation? We can never compromise that,” said Shivambu.

“There will never be senseless factional wars in the EFF. If people enter into some nonsensical factional things of printing T-shirts and calling secret meetings, we take action and we dismiss you from the organisation.”

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