One of the least known facts is how many Charterist political parties there are in South Africa’s National Assembly of the Fifth Democratic Parliament. Perhaps rightly, it is a moot point given how insignificant any party’s subscription to the Freedom Charter may seem in the public discourse in recent times.
Charterist formations are the formations who subscribe to the Freedom Charter. Although some, even within the ANC, often mistake the Freedom Charter to be the ANC’s intellectual property, history suggests that the Congress of the People that adopted it on 25 June 1955 in Kliptown was made up of various formations, including the South African Indian Congress, the South African Congress of Democrats and the Coloured People’s Congress.
There are many other formations who adopted the Freedom Charter as their vision afterwards, particularly the formations that united under the banner of the United Democratic Front (UDF) in the 1980s. There are even unions and students’ organisations that adopted the Freedom Charter, which at some point became collectively known as the Mass Democratic Movement (MDM). Obviously, the Freedom Charter remains a big part of the ANC Alliance heritage, and continue to shape most of its policies, but it would be ahistorical to claim exclusive intellectual property rights to it.
Unfortunately, the fixation about individual leaders in society in general, and particularly within political parties, including the ANC Alliance, has resulted in the weakening of detailed well-thought through and well-articulated policy proposals. Tragically we are all complicit in this deterioration of the public discourse, including those who claim to be on the sideline or to sit on the fence, like me. Future generations rather than history will judge us harshly for neglecting their future as we are doing.
The Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) is the most recent formation to identify itself as subscribing to the Freedom Charter, or at least claim association to it. Before it, and as expected of most ANC breakaway formations, the ill-named Congress Of the People (COPE) and the United Democratic Movement (UDM) are the two other political parties that identify with the Freedom Charter, or maybe parts of it.
Although the Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP) and the Pan Africanist Congress (PAC) could be construed as ANC breakaway formations as well, there is no evidence of them identifying with the Freedom Charter. In fact, some historians suggest that the adoption of the Freedom Charter by the ANC may have contributed to the PAC breakaway.
The combined percentage support of the Charterists in the 2014 National Elections was 69,5%, made up of the ANC’s 62,15%, EFF’s 6,35% and the UDM’s 1%.
In the dominant SA public discourse the sound bites by the individual leaders of the political parties tend to matter more than the actual stated policies of those political parties. As a result, the fact that the Charterists have more than two-thirds majority in parliament is overshadowed by the time they all spend shouting down each other over non-policy related matters such as Nkandla. Had they invested as much time in finding areas of agreement relating to the Freedom Charter they all claim to associate with, there would possibly be substantial progress.
Sadly, it is not easy to quantify the opportunity cost of the lost opportunity of Charterists working together.
On 31st January 2016, the Sunday Times contained a headline “DA, EFF in ‘secret talks’ to beat ANC in local poll.” Unlike in 2014, when the DA, under Helen Zille, categorically ruled out working with EFF, neither the DA nor EFF has refuted the alleged “secret talks” this time. Consistent with the remarks attributed to Mmusi Maimane towards the end of 2015, in the Sunday Times article the DA Spokesperson confirms what she characterises as “very informal discussions” to have taken place.
It makes sense that opposition parties who have a shared dislike of the ANC, or its President, would begin to have a conversation about possible post-election coalition, as suggested in the Sunday Times.
In the 2014 National Elections, the ANC received 50,96% of the national ballot in the City of Tshwane while the EFF (11,41%) and DA (31,32%) received a combined 42,73%. However, in the provincial ballot, the ANC received 49,31% while the EFF (11,51%) and DA (33,75%) received a combined 45,26%. If you add the Freedom Front Plus to the EFF-DA coalition, their combined percentage goes to 47,74%.
A more worrying picture is in the Nelson Mandela Bay Metro. The ANC received 49,17% of the national ballot while the EFF (4,30%) and DA (40,16%) got 44,46%. In the provincial ballot, the ANC got 48,81% while the EFF (4,15%) and DA (40,8%) received 44,95%. If you add COPE (1,81%) and UDM (1,67%) to the EFF-DA coalition, the combined percentage becomes 48,43%.
The fact that, in both cases, there are about 1,5% ANC voters who vote ANC in the national ballot but abandon the ANC in the provincial ballot is a matter for another day.
Looking at numbers, on their own, it makes a lot of sense why the leaders of the respective opposition parties would want to ponder about the possibilities of post-election coalitions to “beat ANC.” For a moment, let us ignore the fact that the ANC is likely to retain these Metros and all municipalities it leads plus take over new ones as it has been doing in most of the municipal by-elections.
As already stated the EFF is a Charterist political formation. Of course they are also Bikoist, Sankarist, Fanonian, Marxist-Leninist and so on, but their stated policies remain heavily Charterist, slightly to the left of the ANC. A perfect square peg.
The DA on the other hand, for lack of a better characterisation, is extremely shapeless. Having grown to the maximum possible support base from white voters, it has began to speak in a forked tongue on race issues. If it supports BEE and Affirmative Action to gain black voters, it risks losing its white voters. If it opposes BEE and Affirmative Action to retain white voters, it risks losing the majority of black voters, the exception being a few blacks who think their success is purely on merit and has nothing to do with the fall of Apartheid.
Parading a black leader has not helped the DA because he did not get a clear policy on where the party stands on race. Beyond race, the DA is an ultra-right party that advocates free market fundamentalism. A perfect round hole.
In its 2014 Elections Manifesto, the EFF wants labour brokers banned, in its 5-Point Jobs Plan the DA wants a growth of the labour broker market or casualised workers. The EFF has strong support of workers’ rights, the DA wants workers’ rights to be relaxed to make hiring and firing easier. The EFF wants a national minimum wage, the DA settles for sectoral determinations. The EFF opposes the Youth Wage Subsidy, the DA advocates for a variant of it.
The DA’s 5-Point Jobs Plan is an embarrassment to put it mildly. No self-respecting individual should knowingly associate themselves with that level of hollowness and mediocrity. Yet it is their only semblance of what could be called a policy, when clutching at straws. It is like someone googled what is already happening is certain aspects of the economy and added a proposition that the DA will do it better, without substantiating how. Other parts read like someone googled what SA white big business usually whine about and added a proposition that the DA will solve those problems without elaborating how.
The EFF’s Pillars for Economic Emancipation, on the other hand, mostly derived from the ANCYL’s 24 National Congress, are a substantial revolutionary theory contribution in spite of their deficiencies that often border on abstract utopian socialism.
If you compiled a collection of sound bites where Maimane and Julius Malema criticise President Zuma, or the ANC, you could be convinced that they share a lot in common. But if you read their stated policies, you would realise that the EFF is a square peg and the DA a round hole.
To suggest an EFF-DA coalition is to trivialise the amount of effort the EFF puts in researching and crafting its stated policies. In a coalition with the DA, the EFF, due to size, would have to be a junior partner and thus compromise some of its policy positions in favour of the DA policies.
On the other hand, if you read the ANC policies and the EFF policies, you would realise that the EFF square peg could fit perfectly in a large rectangular hole that is the ANC. Unfortunately, in the unlikely event that an ANC-EFF coalition is necessary to lead a Metro, the egos of their respective leaders are likely to stand in the way of the implementation of the Freedom Charter, as already evident in parliament.
Time will tell whether Malema and Maimane can successfully hammer a square peg that is the EFF into a round hole that is the DA. Evidence suggests that this is neither desirable nor workable. Instead Charterist formations should look beyond personal egos of their current leaders, who may be replaced in future, in the interest of the realisation of the Freedom Charter aspirations to achieve Economic Freedom and A Better Life for All.
UPDATE: In a media briefing held on the 4th February 2016, the EFF denied being involved in talks with the DA. They cited political differences plus personality differences as reasons why the coalition is unlikely. They further pointed out that if there was to be a coalition, agreement with their seven cardinal pillars would be a prerequisite for such a coalition.
 See Origins of our name at http://www.congressofthepeople.org.za/content/page/origins-of-our-name (Accessed 03 February 2016)
Also see the 2015 Constitution of the Congress of the People at http://s3.amazonaws.com/cope/2015_COPE_OFFICIAL_CONSTITUTION.pdf (Accessed 03 February 2016)
 See UDM input at the National Convention South African democracy at a crossroad: turning a new page at http://udm.org.za/udm-input-national-convention-south-african-democracy-crossroad-turning-new-page/ (Accessed 03 February 2016)
Also see UDM Siyabulela Rally – address by UDM President, Mr Bantu Holomisa at http://udm.org.za/udm-siyabulela-rally-address-udm-president-mr-bantu-holomisa/ (Accessed 03 February 2016)
And West Rand Region Rally at Wedela Stadium in Carletonville at http://udm.org.za/west-rand-region-rally-wedela-stadium-carletonville/ (Accessed 03 February 2016)
 See DA, EFF in ‘secret talks’ to beat ANC in local poll at http://www.timeslive.co.za/sundaytimes/stnews/2016/01/31/DA-EFF-in-secret-talks-to-beat-ANC-in-local-poll (Accessed 03 February 2016)
 See DA will not enter into any coalition with EFF at https://www.da.org.za/2014/04/da-will-not-enter-into-any-coalition-with-eff/ (Accessed 03 February 2016)
 See DA leaves door open to coalition with EFF in 2016 at http://www.bdlive.co.za/national/politics/2015/10/06/news-analysis-da-leaves-door-open-to-coalition-with-eff-in-2016 (Accessed 03 February 2016)
 See EFF Election Manifesto at http://effighters.org.za/election-manifesto/ (Accessed 03 February 2016)
 See The DA’s 5-Point Jobs Plan at http://www.da.org.za/wp-content/uploads/2015/08/The-DAs-5-Point-Jobs-Plan.pdf (Accessed 03 February 2016)
 See About us at http://effighters.org.za/about-us/ (Accessed 03 February 2016)