The coalition of the former comrades and the September National Imbizo (SNI) in the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) have had a good showing in the 2014 National Elections, as I had expected. Current indications are that they are likely to get about 25 seats in the National Assembly. They will be getting a few seats in the provincial legislatures across the country, taking the much sought after position of main opposition in Limpopo.
Rightfully, the former comrades have been patting themselves on their backs for an impressive showing given their suggested lack of resources and how relatively new they are, as an organised formation. It is, indeed, an excellent performance on their part, notwithstanding their initially overstated goals during the campaign.
I congratulate my former comrades for their achievement. They have worked really hard in the short space of time, setting up structures while mobilising for elections. I never doubted their capability to put up such a feat, particularly given their brevity which often borders on the folly.
I read, with great interest, the Manifesto of the EFF. I am inclined to have interest in the developments relating to any left forces in the country, including the ultra left.
After the former comrades formed a coalition with the SNI, I did anticipate that their manifesto was going to contain excerpts of the ANCYL 24th National Congress Resolutions and some of the elements of what the SNI called the People’s Manifesto (google it). Consistent with my expectation, the EFF Manifesto does contain both these elements.
However, I suspect out of desperation, the EFF Manifesto proceeds to have some bizarre promises that I could not figure the rational of their inclusion. I can not figure out how some of the promising minds in the EFF agreed to some of those promises. My opinion is they still would have achieved the same electoral results without those bizarre promises.
As an example, due to my day job, I am aware that the petrol attendants work odd hours, often in chilling winter weather, but are paid less than hand to mouth salaries. But for the EFF to suggest that their minimum wage, I suppose by regulation, would be R5000 was strange, particularly given that the salaries of petrol attendants are paid by the motorists as a component of the fuel price. While the rest of the EFF Manifesto contains understandable aspirations, the part of minimum wages in Section 3 of the Manifesto is disingenuous and is somewhat tantamount to deceit.
Fortunately for the former comrades, they are not a government, hence they do not have the obligation to fulfill the unrealistic parts of their Manifesto.
But this points to another matter. Establishing a formation in a hurry towards the elections is not the same as running a fully fledged organisation outside of the election period. Therefore, the former comrades have certain things they need to do in order to survive and sustain relevance among their members and supporters.
Although the EFF characterizes itself as a protest movement, its Honourable Members would have to be honourable, particularly in the discharge of their parliamentary duties. Although in the National Assembly, howling is somewhat tolerated, the situation is different in Committees of Parliament where most of the work is done. It’s members in legislatures will have to be trained to conduct themselves accordingly.
In their hostile takeover of the SNI, the comrades have allowed the SNI to influence them with Fanonian plus Bikoism ideologies and in turn have influenced the former SNI members to embrace (a variant of) Marxism and other left isms which the SNI used to despise. A whole lot more work will need to happen to build the political consciousness among its members.
For example, those who know the SNI background, will be watching closely to see whether, once they serve in legislatures, do they practice what they preach or they get absorbed into a system they derided as excessive. Are they going to take the MP and MPL salaries? Surely the EFF needs the money but the principles espoused in the EFF Manifesto, originating from the SNI promote austerity of public representatives in solidarity with those they represent (see Section 5 of the EFF Manifesto).
Personally, I would not judge my former comrades and their SNI allies if they do not practice what they preach. I, too, have learned that my desire for socialism is very very long term, so I do not have to abandon all the luxuries today in an attempt to build socialism now. But I remain committed to socialism and subscribe to the ANC’s Strategy and Tactics injunction of being dissuaded from opulence (see para 56 of 53rd National Conference S&T).
And fortunately for them, the media and its analyst won’t judge them neither because they lack the depth of analysing EFF beyond the sound bites of its oddly titled Commander in Chief.
For the few sensible parts of the EFF Manifesto, there is an opportunity to cooperate with the people’s liberation movement in the legislature towards uplifting the lives of the poor and economic emancipation. As it gets to parliament, the EFF will have to choose whether it will be oppositional irrationally or where there are areas of agreement it may cooperate with the trusted liberation movement that has the overwhelming mandate of the people. On this issue the EFF, will either have to act in the interest of the people or in the interest of their own egos that will be fed by the 2 minute sound bites and occasional headlines.
I could say more, but I doubt this text will reach many readers and even if it does, none of them will, neither should they, take it serious. So let me hasten to raise the most important matter that is the point of this text.
The greatest test that the EFF is going to have to go through is an exercise of internal democracy. Both the SNI and the former comrades who are in the EFF, do not have a very good record of exercising organisational democracy. As COPE, and to an extent the IFP, UDM, ID, PAC, AZAPO and others have shown, internal organisational democracy is an extremely important element in the building of an organisation. Even the right wing white Democratic Alliance has a variant of internal democracy.
At the time of writing this, I had not come across the commitment of when will the National People’s Assembly (NPA) be convened to elect the Central Command Team (CCT). It also does not look like the CCT that is currently in place is an interim structure. If my reading is correct, it means the NPA is likely to be convened in 2018 as the constitution prescribes a 5 year term for the CCT. If there is no plan to convene the NPA, the EFF may have missed a step already.
I am also bothered by the wording of the application of democracy in the current constitution where it says, “2. The leading bodies of the EFF at all levels are elected through democratic consultation.” This does not sound like members or delegates from branches voting. However, I accept that democracy is not one size fits all, the IFP believes itself to have democratically elected leadership too.
If the EFF is able to practice internal organisational democracy, it may, in future, replace the white right wing Democratic Alliance in the much sought after position of the main opposition across legislatures. But failure to exercise internal democracy, may, unfortunately lead to a situation of the former ANC National Chairperson who was seen biting a hat an elections results centre recently.
As a disclaimer, I have never started a political party nor have I ever been a member of any legislature. I am not the best source of great ideas for members of parliament nor newly formed protest movements.