Julius Malema has taken over the critical role of coordinating the campaign work of the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) as the party plans a total onslaught to bring the governing ANC down to below 50% of support in the elections later this year.
Malema will be the only face of the EFF on all the election material – a decision expected to be ratified at the party’s national list conference in two weeks’ time – closing the lid on a spirited push by some provincial structures to have their own premier candidates on posters, pamphlets and billboards.
The party has thrown the race for its premier candidate positions wide open, allowing prominent people who may not be members or leaders of the party to be considered.
The move formed part of an effort to thwart parachuting leaders on factional slates because some, including councillors, had previously been found to be too lazy to do the organisation’s work, prompting a thorough investigation and recommendations by the party committee led by EFF deputy president Floyd Shivambu.
EFF secretary-general Godrich Gardee told City Press this year’s elections were “do or die” and that was why Malema had been roped in to monitor the work of all provincial, regional and branch election structures, working with a team stationed in his office.
“The president must not have an excuse and nobody must have an excuse. The president is the face of the organisation and some tough tasks must be led by his office. [Malema] is in charge of elections in the EFF.”
Gardee said Malema did all that was expected of the election’s convener and coordinator, and the team in his office looked after the administrative work only under his directive.
“This election is the mother of all battles. It is now or never,” he said.
He added that even the Western Cape under the opposition DA was in the EFF’s sights.
“There are no holy cows and exceptions, so it is a total onslaught. We are not contesting to be kingmakers, coalitions or the opposition. We are contesting for power; to be the government.”
Previous EFF election heads have included Andile Mngxitama, the leader of Black First Land First who apparently failed so spectacularly at the job that Gardee took over the role in the middle of a planning bosberaad, earning Malema’s respect.
Under Gardee’s stewardship, the EFF attained 1.1 million votes in its maiden general elections in 2014 and 1.2 million votes in the 2016 local government elections.
The EFF’s national list conference, scheduled to be held from January 18 to 20 at the Birchwood Hotel in Benoni, will be attended by more than 1 000 party leaders, including 15 representatives from each of the 54 regions, 21 representatives from all provinces and the 45 members of the national executive.
A party insider said Malema was the best person for the job because of the role he had played in Parliament in terms of pushing the land expropriation without compensation debate, including the proposed changes to the Constitution’s property clause.
“Also look at the role he played in the justice committee, particularly his work in interviewing candidates for judicial positions. He was at the forefront of pushing for the state capture inquiry.”
The insider said Malema began the motion to remove former president Jacob Zuma, “which the ANC then followed”.
“As with any organisation, the leader must lead from the front and by example.”
On the choice of premier candidates, which would be decided at the list conference, another insider said the approach was that even a person who was not a member of the EFF could be chosen to become the premier candidate if they were prominent and enjoyed the respect of the voters.
“If you agree to stand, you will be registered as a member immediately. So it is not automatic that if you are a leader in a particular province then you can easily become the premier candidate,” said the person.
A regional leader of the EFF said that “chances are high that we will shake this government up and make sure that [the ANC does] not get more than 50% [of the vote]”.