The Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) under Julius Malema was initiated as a radical wing of the former ANC Youth League, vibrant and seeking economic freedom in our lifetime.
In the world of China and India’s huge economic development since the end of the Soviet Union, there is a big question – what does “economic freedom” really mean? Is it something that comes just because there is a new government or does it have to be something else? Was Venezuela under Hugo Chávez “economically free”? If so, then why is Venezuela now in such a mess, while India and China are not?
And how can we make sure South Africa under the EFF would not end up like Venezuela, but instead become a much stronger economy more like India or China? These are the questions that will decide whether people eat or starve.
In the first place, we can ask: Can Malema’s radical leadership be compared with that of the youth league of Anton Lembede, OR Tambo and Nelson Mandela? The ANC Youth League of Lembede was a radical African nationalist movement, anti-white and anti-Indian.
But it was the persistent persuasion of black communists who were also ANC leaders, such as Moses Kotane, Alfred Mofutsanyane, JB Marks and Govan Mbeki that continued to pursue youth league members to make them understand it is not the colour of the skin that makes a person good or bad; it is his or her thinking, his or her actions. That is how the ANC learnt to judge politics.
The adoption of the Black Republic policy by the SA Communist Party (SACP) in 1928 was crucial once the decision of the Communist International convinced the party that it should work closely with the liberation movement, the ANC and its youth league. By 1929 – roughly 90 years ago – Albert Nzula was secretary-general of the SACP. Tambo, Nelson Mandela and Walter Sisulu ultimately saw true friends and comrades in the communists across the colour lines. ANC Youth League leaders worked closely with Bram Fischer, Joe Slovo, Ruth First, Yusuf Dadoo and MP Naicker.
It has been proved again and again that race and colour of the skin of the human do not determine the integrity or calibre of the person. The ANC and SACP opposed the apartheid regime on that basis and defeated it. Now racist politics is back again, this time from a black African. The current EFF leadership’s racist hatred of Jews was expounded by Malema when he stated last month that right wing extremists were being trained to kill black people. “They will kill us for that,” he said. “There’s a group of white right-wingers who are being trained by Jews in Pretoria to be snipers.” He made the racist allegation with no evidence. He might as well have said “trained by Daleks”, but he chose Hitler’s target, the Jews.
In the same way Malema showed his hatred of Indians when he stated outside the Newcastle Magistrates’ Court last June that “the majority of Indians are racist”.
This talk is misplaced and will undermine the integrity of the South African state. Racism and fascism are bad, whether practised by white rulers, such as Mussolini of Italy and Hitler of Germany, or by Asians, such as Pol Pot of Cambodia, or by Africans, such as Idi Amin who chased away Indians from Uganda.
What would happen under a President Malema? Would the Jews be persecuted? Would the Indians be chased away? Would we implement the Venezuela type of reforms and collapse the South African economy?
It is realistic to ask: Will the EFF implement the Robert Mugabe type of so-called land reforms, taking farms from experienced white farmers with disregard for the realities of food production, leading to self-induced starvation in the cities?
How would South Africa look under an EFF government, given our rapidly growing population with two-thirds now living in towns and cities? Do we really want to export our skilled and educated young black adults to seek work as migrants in the UK and other economies, as Mugabe did?
Our problem lies in the lack of a fully representative democracy in which the voters choose MPs and get rid of crooked MPs by their own choice, instead of the unaccountable government by Luthuli House or the EFF headquarters. We need to trust the people, not party HQ – whether ANC, EFF or DA.
South Africa under an EFF government would not be better off. Racism and fascism know no colour. It cuts across tribal, racial and religious lines.
The Freedom Charter was right: South Africa belongs to all who live in it, blacks, whites, coloureds and Indians.
We should all be treated equally under the South African sun.
- Makgoale is a rank-and-file member of the ANC