ANC response to EFF provocation good and bad - analyst

2016-05-03 11:12
President Jacob Zuma. (Elizabeth Sejake, City Press)

President Jacob Zuma. (Elizabeth Sejake, City Press)

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Johannesburg - The ANC’s decision to seemingly directly respond to provocation by the EFF has both positive and negative connotations, political analyst Ebrahim Fakir said on Monday.

"It’s a great thing that the ANC are on their toes and have to be responsive," he said in an interview with News24.

"However, it’s not so great for citizens that they [ANC] will only be responsive if their power base is being eroded…

"It appears that they are only responsive to a political party that is going to eat into the voter base."

On Saturday, at the Economic Freedom Fighters local election manifesto launch, party leader Julius Malema taunted the ruling party, declaring that: "We don’t compete against anyone else but the ANC…

"[The] ANC failed to fill Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium. We have beaten them... Bring it on, we are ready for you. We are not scared of you," he said to cheers and ululation for the capacity crowd at the Orlando Stadium in Soweto.

"This is a party for black people,” he added.

- Read more: 13 blistering quotes from Malema at EFF manifesto launch

In an apparent response to the EFF, President Jacob Zuma, speaking at a May Day rally in Morelete Park in Mamelodi on Sunday, criticised "political opportunists" who would “promote anarchy and chaos".

"Some of the voices that are very loud today are people that were with you, who have begun to give a different interpretation to our revolution."  These political forces, must be "isolated and shunned", Zuma said.

Malema recently told an interviewer on Al Jazeera that the EFF would "literally" remove the government at gunpoint.

'DA is more easily dismissible'

Fakir said that in the past, the ANC came across as "standoffish and quite aloof" to criticism.

"Now they appear to have changed tack. From a public governance perspective in an open democracy, [this is positive]."

However, since the ANC seemed motivated to respond only when it concerned their retention of power, ordinary citizens were still not being heard.

For example, said Fakir, the numerous community-based protests that occur across the country do not seem to stir a direct response from the party.

He said that the ANC would be less concerned with the Democratic Alliance as opposition, than the EFF, because the latter had been born from within the ruling party’s ranks.

"The DA is more easily dismissible," suggested Fakir, who nevertheless pointed out that in the past, the ruling party had been vitriolic in its response to the main opposition.

Nevertheless, he said that the ANC strategically went with the "racial tint and history" of the DA when dismissing it. The ANC probably also did not see the DA as being as likely to erode its voter base as the EFF.

'We are going to hear all kinds of ridiculous'

After being ousted as head of the ANC Youth League in 2012, Malema went on to form the Economic Freedom Fighters. The opposition party managed to garner 6.35% of the vote in the general elections in 2014. They will be contesting the local elections for the first time in August this year.

"The problem with the EFF is that it is a black party run by a group of people that all come from the ANC," said Fakir.

Nevertheless, he felt that the EFF’s pull in the local elections would not be as dramatic as sometimes seems to be suggested. "I think they [EFF] are in for a surprise and they are not going to do as well as they seem to be."

Overall, Fakir suggested that the politicking near election-time was “inevitable and natural…

"It is election time; we are going to hear all kinds of ridiculous.

"The tragedy however that it is unfortunately crude and it's not a thoughtful, well-argued, cogent, coherent rhetoric."

Nevertheless, "underpinning the tragedy, is that it’s not just politicians who are at fault here: There is the curious interplay between what politicians offered and citizens consume".

There public did not seem to fully understand the nuances of a local government election – and as such the rhetoric offered by politic parties seemed shaped around this.

The EFF needed to be given credit in this sphere as they did link local issues to their manifesto launch, to a greater extent than the DA and ANC, suggested Fakir.

However, due to the power distribution between municipalities, provinces and national government, some of what the EFF promised was "unrealistic".

Fakir also pointed out that in his local government manifesto, Malema had once again shown that he was "not genuinely anti-white".

"He went on for a whole five minutes… [addressing white people, that] we want to hold hands and learn from you."

'Hard to straddle the divide'

Thus, the onus was on white people to stop repudiating the majority stance, suggested Fakir.

Fakir said that the ANC currently faced a difficult situation as class mobility had created "massive changes" in social stratification over the past 22 years.

These included the white middle class and emerging black equivalent, the urban black working class, those marginalised or in precarious employment in urban areas and the rural poor.

It seemed likely that the ANC had decided that "you can’t have a catch-all" and as such were choosing to direct most of their electioneering at the rural poor as this remained the largest constituent of party supporters.

"The ANC are finding it hard to straddle the divide."

On Sunday, Zuma suggested that the ANC was the only party that would never let down the poor.

"Without the ANC in power, this country will be in big trouble," the president declared.

Read more on:    anc  |  eff  |  jacob zuma  |  julius malema  |  local elections 2016

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