EFF 10th birthday bash to be a ‘festival of the poor’

EFF supporters marched on the streets of Phoenix calling for an end to racism during the 2021 unrest. Picture: Doctor Ngcobo/African News Agency(ANA)

EFF supporters marched on the streets of Phoenix calling for an end to racism during the 2021 unrest. Picture: Doctor Ngcobo/African News Agency(ANA)

Published Jul 23, 2023


THE 95 000 capacity Soccer City Stadium in Johannesburg is expected to be painted red next Saturday as the EFF celebrates a whirlwind decade in South African politics.

If the build-up to the big day at the stadium is anything to go by, the red berets are expected to put on a show to remember as they celebrate a milestone few would have imagined possible when its leader, Julius Malema, formed the party 10 years ago, following his

expulsion from the ANC.

Dubbed the “festival of the poorest of the poor”, the EFF will be celebrating a decade of “unbroken struggle”.

Speaking ahead of the celebration, Omphile Maotwe, the party’s treasurer-general, said that while the ANC continued to lose votes, they had grown steadily.

“Since the existence of the EFF, you have seen the former liberation movement dropping; in 2014 they dropped, 2016 they dropped, 2019 they dropped, 2021 they dropped and unfortunately next year they’re not going to have an outright majority.

“The research has been done through various institutions and the information is that there will not be an outright winner next year. The liberation movement will be between 40% and 45% and who has been growing consistently? The EFF,” Maotwe said during a site visit to Soccer City ahead of the anniversary celebration.

With both the ANC and DA dropping votes in the 2019 general elections, the red berets were confident of an increase in support at next year’s polls. While the ANC enjoyed a 62.1% majority stemming from 11.4 million votes that ensured them 249 seats in the National Assembly in 2014, they posted a decline in 2019 where they received 57.5% from the

10 million votes cast in their favour, a drop that saw them managing only 230 seats.

Although the DA has remained the perennial opposition party they have also suffered a loss in support between 2014 and 2019. Their 22.2% of the vote in 2014 came from four million votes that gave them 89 seats, but this dropped to 20.7% from a total of 3.6 million votes in 2019 that saw them manage 84 seats.

On the other hand, the EFF has shown an upward trajectory since its first participation in the national and provincial elections in 2014 where it came third behind the DA, amassing 6.3%, or 1.1 million votes, debuting in the National Assembly with 25 seats.

Four years later the EFF fared even better as they accumulated 10.8% of the vote

(1.8 million), increasing their seats in the National Assembly by 19 to 44 seats.

The local government elections of 2016 also saw the party receive 8.2% of the votes, but its impact was felt as it became kingmaker in at least 13 councils including three metropolitan

municipalities: Nelson Mandela Bay, Tshwane and Joburg.

In the 2021 local government elections the red berets also showed an improvement as they received an overall 10.3% of the votes from the 2.4 million votes. They also retained their kingmaker status in numerous councils and metros.

Political analyst Ralph Mathekga said that although some may not agree with the EFF’s radical and militant tactics, it had undoubtedly reinvigorated a waning political consciousness among the South African public.

“They have been able to push politicians to perform in ways that we might not have thought possible for politicians. It is a great feat. In the past 10 years of the EFF, it has done incredibly well. They can be credited with the speedy removal of (former president Jacob) Zuma.

“Even if you don’t agree with them, you have got to respect how they have actually redefined opposition politics in South Africa; the EFF doesn’t play much into the system. The EFF is quite a marvel for opposition party politics in the country,” Mathekga said.

He added that what remained a challenge for the EFF now was whether they could be pragmatic in what they wanted to achieve. The party has also been lauded for its popularity among the youth, evidenced by its strong showing in student representative council elections by its Student Command at various tertiary institutions across the country. However, the party needed to convert this popularity to numbers at the polls.

“It’s a young party. It’s the only opposition party other than the DA that has been able to successfully consolidate and it is a big achievement for them. When the ANC Youth League went down, the EFF picked up and it is because of the EFF Student Command

which has got relevance.”

However, the party’s 10-year existence has not been without controversy, particularly the party’s leaders, Malema and his second-in-command Floyd Shivambu being unable to shake off allegations that the party had benefited from the looting of the VBS (Venda Building Society) Mutual Bank through “front” companies.

Almost R2.1 billion of pensioners’ money was wiped from the bank’s coffers with Brian Shivambu, Floyd’s brother, among those who had benefited from the funds and had to pay back close to R5 million.

“That is their albatross. This is where they have been unable to break ranks with the traditions of the ANC where they come from and their troubled relationship with the public assets continues within the EFF.

“They’ve been able to design a political project that is promising, but they are hamstrung when you start digging deeper because it looks like they’ve got no moral problems without undue gaining from state resources at the expense of the taxpayers. When you talk about

VBS it is not just any other bank, it’s a bank where the vulnerable save their money,” Mathekga said.

Another political analyst, Siyabonga Ntombela from the University of KwaZulu-Natal, however, said that on the issue of VBS there appeared to be some sort of collusion between political parties, including the ANC, which has also been alleged to have benefited from the looting at VBS.

“Those are people’s lifetime investments and savings gone down the drain just like that and even the ruling party has never even issued a strong statement against that issue. However,

I don’t think the EFF can solely be blamed for it,” Ntombela said.

He added that for the EFF to continue to grow they had to be consistent in their current modus operandi of poaching from the ANC’s radical economic transformation faction.