3 minute read
15 Aug 2013
9:00 am

Don’t write the EFF off

The Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) have started distributing membership forms for those who want to join the new party.

The form contains a declaration that members will “strive towards total emancipation of South Africa, Africa and the oppressed of the world” and “work towards a South Africa that truly belongs to all who live in it”.

Many people are ready to dismiss anything coming from the mouth of Julius Malema or the spokesmen of the EFF.

With his base being mainly disaffected youth who feel betrayed and left behind by the establishment, it’s little wonder that those who are benefiting from, or at least getting by relatively well under the current regime, would find Malema’s utterances quite unwelcome.

But that doesn’t change the fact that some of the things that he says are true and relevant.

It’s a fact that the current government has failed the youth of South Africa. Unemployment is sky high, and only partly as a result of slow job creation. The other side of the story is that there are many unfilled vacancies out there, but no candidates with the necessary education and skills to fill them.

The education system is in a mess, and until a decision is made to place the interests of pupils and the future of the economy above currying favour with politically useful teachers’ unions, it’s going to stay that way.
We also have a social safety net which costs billions and is unsustainable in the long run, yet offers so little to its recipients that many still live in abject poverty.

None of this is to say that the EFF can necessarily solve these problems. It’s an open question as to whether any political party or government can really turn things around at this point. But the fact is that the issues raised by the EFF are real, and ad hominem attacks don’t change that fact.

The best thing that can happen at the general election next year would be for the EFF to win a considerable amount of votes. Not, as I said, because their policies would necessarily solve the problems they complain about.

But it would be the sort of wake-up call that centrist, pro-business parties like the ANC, DA and Agang need. Yes, the opposition needs a wake-up call as well, because from their platforms it’s not exactly clear how they would be able to do any better than the ANC at addressing the fundamental causes of the above-mentioned problems.

A powerful showing by the EFF will force these parties to realise they need to do more than come up with the best way to install toilets at squatter camps or give incentives to companies to hire young people. They will take seriously the fact that the youth, the unemployed and other marginalised sections of society will no longer be easily pacified by scraps from the political party/big business wedding table.

If those in power – politically and economically – don’t fear the EFF, they will do nothing to change the status quo. And if the status quo is not changed, disaster is inevitable. Not for the multinationals who will simply take their money elsewhere, or the fat cat politicians with their foreign bank accounts, but for ordinary people everywhere, whether they vote EFF, DA, ANC or Agang.