Mandisa Mashego on stepping down as EFF Gauteng leader: 'It's fine if people think I am bitter'

Mandisa Mashego. (Fleix Dlangamandla/Gallo Images)
Mandisa Mashego. (Fleix Dlangamandla/Gallo Images)

Mandisa Mashego's decision to step down as Gauteng EFF chairperson and caucus leader in the provincial legislature was a long time coming, she said, adding that it gave her an opportunity to focus on areas of interest outside the constraints of a political party.

"Once you realise you no longer fit in the vehicle, by all means, step aside. Allow others to come in and make a difference," Mashego said on Thursday morning.

"Take the leap, no matter how uncomfortable it might be," she added in an interview with News24.

Speculation over Mashego's resignation grew after she decided contest for the position of secretary general at the EFF's 2019 elective conference.

Her bid did not gain any traction. Instead, Marshall Dlamini replaced Godrich Gardee as the secretary general. Dlamini is seen as close to EFF leader Julius Malema.

"It's fine if people think I resigned because I am bitter," Mashego told News24, adding that people were more than welcome to believe whatever they wanted to.

The politician said her decision to contest the party's elections was in line with her "adventurous spirit".

"Sometimes I am more adventurous than logical. Sometimes I do things for fun but others take it very seriously. They don't understand why you do certain things and sometimes you do things just [because]," said Mashego.

"Who was going to push the boundaries if I didn't?" she asked jokingly.

READ | EFF's Mandisa Mashego resigns as caucus leader in Gauteng legislature

While she remained guarded and refused to explore certain aspects of her resignation, she said it was a long time coming.

Mashego explained that she wanted to step down in 2016 but national chairperson Dali Mpofu convinced her otherwise.

"There is really nothing untoward. We all fight for our rights to freedom of association. The decision has been long coming from my perspective. I finally found a point where I could respectfully communicate my decision to the organisation and the legislature," she said.

Mashego, who said was ill for a while and focused on the health of her ageing father, said the decision to step down was not easy and described it as "emotional" and "spiritual".

She said while she would remain a member of the EFF, she wanted to explore her own activism in different areas, including youth development, education, electoral reform and gender-based violence.

Mashego said while she had an issue with the idea of proportional representation (PR), it was hard to share her views on this while serving in her capacity as caucus leader - through the PR system. She said she also wanted to advocate for causes such as the death penalty.

The former provincial chief, who has often been described as firebrand, power hungry, unpredictable and, in her own words, "ungovernable", said she understood if some in the party, especially those who elected her Gauteng chairperson in 2018, felt betrayed by her decision.

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She also spoke at length about the role of women in politics, saying there was a need to understand the strength that would come from them tapping into each other to challenge patriarchal systems that allow men to thrive and continue calling the shots.

"By the time a woman wants to influence, and you have the right to lobby people, you target women for that message and the first they say is you are a power monger… we need more of those. Why is it so wrong to want power?" she questioned.

"I love women who are pushy. They make it easier for the rest of us."

Reflecting on her tenure, Mashego said she felt satisfied with the manner in which she played her role.

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"There are things I have learnt, mistakes I have made, many perspectives I have held have changed and I suppose that's the beauty of life and the challenges have been learning curves. I have also suffered as far as health is concerned in this role but I am addressing it," said Mashego.

In response to claims that she struggled to remain a leader in the party because there was no room for dissent or freedom of views in the party, Mashego disputed this. She said painting the EFF as a party that did not allow disagreeing views was a "gross exaggeration".

She argued there was room for disagreement with the party's leadership but that many members lacked the political maturity to navigate this space.

READ | Malema: Support for EFF among women is 'pathetic'

Without mentioning the party's commander-in-chief, who has often been seen as intolerant of opposing views by many outside the party, Mashego suggested the issue wasn't Malema but how people perceived him and acted, based on those perceptions.

"Some without enough confidence, insight, and vision tend to hold back and become scared. It's very easy to become scared of someone or even a bully.... but it's you, fearing someone with a bit of confidence or more dominance and then concluding that someone is scary when they might not really be," said Mashego.

She said her relationship with the EFF had been professional and refused to share her views on whether the collective leading with Malema was the right one.

"It's irrelevant, in my opinion, because people are elected in political parties and that must be respected, the right of franchise that all members must exercise. Who are we to cast aspersions on elected leadership?" she asked.

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