Malema’s EFF has stopped thinking and slipped into a cant

HARD CORE: Julius Malema and Floyd Shivambu of the EFF listen intently to former minister of finance Pravin Gordhan delivering his seventh budget speech in the National Assembly in Parliament earlier this year. Picture: David Ritchie

EFF’s rejection of President Zuma and refusal to recognize him as President has long spilled into self-indulgence and narrow mindedness. Defining themselves around the power of the Presidency and defiance, their challenging of authority for its own sake, harbors within it the possibility of its own excesses and its own chaos and EFF may not have existed long enough to know this. The self-obsession with President Zuma has slipped into a cant where the denunciation of the President comes too easily.

Zuma has almost become Malema’s EFF’s object of desire, giving them some glorious “high” with their reckless behavior and their roller-coaster type thrill in Parliament, where in the absence of Zuma they look bored and marooned. Their Zuma obsessions has given them some purpose of existence and the ensuing headlines makes them feel they are of service to the nation, validated by front pages. The problem of course is that EFF risks exiting the country’s political stage when their object of desire bows out through the democratic stages.

Whatever dissatisfaction you may have with President Jacob Zuma, whether you are unconvinced by his answers, provoked by his paternalism, disagreeable with his policy by anecdotes, perturbed by allegations of corruption and ceding state power, you must at least be able to understand his enduring appeal. Down the years plenty of incidences have looked set to curb the appeal of Jacob Zuma – But all have so far failed. His star may not be shining as bright today but it is still holding up remarkably well given all the chaos that has surrounded his name.

There are questions about Zuma’s reasons or intentions on various decisions and slogans he chants on various platforms every day. Many of his critics remain stuck on the Mistry of those reasons and intentions. President Zuma however, without a doubt, has spoken directly to black South Africa’s longing for real change. He has resurrected believers who had felt out of place, whether due to poor education, low class, inarticulate, maybe even corruptible, Zuma has reminded everyone that irrespective of systems, and markets reactions, or interests of the dominant members of society, what South Africa needs is not complicated or smart or needs obfuscation, South Africa needs black people in charge and white people to let go.

That Zuma’s message has found such a receptive audience speaks not to his skill as a communicator, but to the failure of the past ANC administrations to truly tap into this growing anger and resentment and deal with it sooner. ANC governments had become too lax about correcting the injustices of the past. The ANC would have been expected to overthrow the inherited value system of the entire society. We would not have been expected, at least by the majority upon whom their hopes are kept alive, not to legitimize ourselves, to the very white society that had governed us, by affirming the values of a divided society we inherited, and to govern by its maxim. We found ourselves maintaining our inherited bureaucracy.

When Thousands of South Africans poured out of the rural towns to take over the cities that had been effectively foreclosed to them a few years before, they did not expect to find themselves having to make a life in the peripheries of these cities. The ANC, domineering and overwhelming in its influence, its leaders, prophets and warriors, did not launch a journey that would wreck the past civil society and rebuild a more equal and more fairer society. By the end 2 decades, South Africa still stood as an indisputable racially divided country where white South Africans still hold much of the wealth and black South Africans are still defined by poverty. When Oxfam told us in 2016 that two richest South Africans (Johann Rupert and Nicky Oppenheimer, according to Forbes) have wealth equal to the poorest 50% (i.e 26.5 million people), Zuma’s point was made. The dream could not be differed any more. Zuma resurrected it

ANC before Zuma seemed to value liberal endorsement on its handling of the economy than on changing it. Zuma may be exaggerating the Radical Economic Transformation rhetoric and certainly others are right to point out to some inconsistencies, never the less by promising to side with blacks unequivocally, building black industrialists, giving government contract to black owned companies, withdrawing government support to untransformed companies, he has found a legion of fed up black people who have been weary of economic exclusion and the continuous enrichment of white establishment.

The more Zuma critics have carped, the more they play into the role described for them, a band of out of touch anti-black, white appeasers, blame ANC first, political correct elitists who do not care about the real economic revolution. They live to protect their rising interests in the status quo.

Zuma’s Presidency, in all its imperfections, has served as a flash point that issues of race, inequality, self-interests of class and race, were never truly resolved. The anger of black people may have dissipated into consumerism, lifestyle choices and musical preferences rather than political commitments, but the problems of race, poverty, and gender, especially black women, did not go away and Zuma has brought it all up.

Either way the line between the radicals in the ANC and the conservatives has been drawn more sharply under Zuma. Everything has been reduced to an either or, for or against, you are either for RET or not, you either want black ownership now or you are tweedling, the choices are stark and ready.

Under President Zuma simplicity has become a virtue.

Yonela Diko is a Media Strategist & Communications Consultant