Is the EFF falling apart under pressure?

Julius Malema (Netwerk24)
Julius Malema (Netwerk24)

The EFF's wheels came off a little bit last week. Perhaps this 8%-party's honeymoon with the media and a chunk of the voting public is coming to an end.

People who took notice of EFF chairperson Dali Mpofu's outrageous behaviour at the Nugent commission into SARS and Julius Malema's press conference last week must now seriously suspect that the party's boasts that it is a corruption fighter are just a façade to conceal its own skeletons in the cupboard.

When some journalists raised this, they were met with insults, vulgarities, intimidation and wild accusations by the EFF leadership.
The EFF leadership clearly has no respect for free speech and a free media.

Politically they may be light years apart, but Malema and Donald Trump sound more and more alike: vicious attacks on the media, the telling of blatant lies and half-truths and getting nasty and personal with those who dare criticise them.

I was told yesterday that not everybody in the EFF is happy about Malema's antics and that there is a group of senior people in the party, including national spokesperson Mbuyiseni Ndlozi, that is becoming vocal in their dissidence. 

Mpofu's bizarre attack on Judge Bob Nugent and his commission was, in my view and that of many jurists, highly unprofessional conduct and probably also a transgression of the Commissions Act. 

He was sharply rebuked by the judge. Mpofu's career as a celebrity lawyer has taken a serious knock.

The respected constitutional expert Pierre de Vos showed why Mpofu and Moyane's submission to the commission was legal nonsense and concluded that it probably had a political rather than legal aim.

Mpofu, SC, served a legal notice on De Vos via Twitter: "If you don't remove this article which I find defamatory, insulting and possibly racist from the public space in which you have published it … by 12h00 expect legal action." 

De Vos ignored him and nothing happened.

When journalists questioned Mpofu's handling of the Nugent commission, he responded on Twitter: "I will fight the New Stratcom in the same way I fought the original Stratcom! Their intentions are the SAME: Paid to sanitise the continued economic oppression of black people by portraying the status quo as acceptable & not needing to be fundamentally changed or disturbed." In other words, to be critical of Dali Mpofu is the same as supporting the oppression of black South Africans. 

Then came Malema's press conference. He named five journalists who had been critical of the EFF, me included, and accused them of being a "mob" that always defends President Cyril Ramaphosa and Minister Pravin Gordhan ("the real president"). He said that I "write stories about perpetuating white privilege" and added that the fact that I had opposed apartheid "doesn't mean that he's not a racist".

This is what has made so many journalists and commentators reluctant to be critical of the EFF: the fear that you will be called a racist in public or, in the case of black journalists, a "house nigger", a term Malema used again just recently.

Malema threatened to act against television channel eNCA because, he said, it sees the EFF as the enemy and always covers for Ramaphosa. (I watched the press conference on eNCA.)

Malema also demanded an apology from author Jacques Pauw who had said in a tweet: "Why is Dali Mpofu committing hara-kiri in defending Tom Moyane? Is it because they have a common friend: tobacco-man Adriano Mazzotti? Under Moyane, Mazzotti's R600m tax bill disappeared. He also paid EFF registration fee in 2014 and gave Malema a loan to help pay his SARS bill." 

Pauw refused, instead giving more information of the EFF's dealings with illicit cigarette smugglers who had also given Malema a R1 million loan. (Mazzotti had admitted in an affidavit to SARS that he was a smuggler, money launderer, tax avoider and fraudster.)

I think it is pretty obvious that the EFF is preparing a climate that would make it easier for them to explain the scandals that are likely to be revealed to its supporters.

How does a party whose attacks on white South Africans are a central pillar of its strategy explain that they were funded by white criminals?

On Sunday Malema posted an old video of the black US activist Louis Farrakhan in which he calls on black people to use violence against white people to rectify injustices. Malema added an "amen" of his own to the tweet.

The last few months have shown that corruption and wrongdoing by public figures will surface sooner or later. This is bound to be true also of Malema's tax problems (and where he got the millions to pay SARS) and the Public Protector's accusations around tenderpreneurship in Limpopo.

The more the EFF comes under pressure, the more irrational, militant and prone to warmongering it becomes. It really misses Jacob Zuma as an easy target and issue to mobilise around.

Despite its small electoral base, the EFF is playing a seriously destructive role in our politics.

The saddest part is that many in the ANC leadership fear Malema and his band of reckless populists. It says more about the ANC than about the EFF.

Disclaimer: News24 encourages freedom of speech and the expression of diverse views. The views of columnists published on News24 are therefore their own and do not necessarily represent the views of News24.

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