William Saunderson-Meyer
3 minute read
20 Feb 2016
9:00 am

EFF sophistry poses threat

William Saunderson-Meyer

The EFF has a thinly veiled contempt for democracy and the law.

Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) leader Julius Malema speaks to journalists after being ordered to leave the parliamentary chamber during President Jacob Zuma's State of the Nation address in Cape Town, February 11, 2016. South Africa's radical leftist Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) party walked out of President Jacob Zuma's state of the nation address after repeatedly interrupting his speech in chaotic parliamentary scenes. / AFP / POOL / Sumaya Hisham

The EFF loves radical rhetoric but the seizure of “white” land and nationalisation are, at this stage, just sound and fury.

That does not mean we should underestimate the insidious threat the EFF poses to a young, fragile democracy.

Their antics during last year’s State of the Nation address (Sona) elicited much public and media delight.

Everyone, it seems, liked to see the class clowns thumb their noses at authority, especially when the derision was directed at a widely disliked figure.

At this year’s Sona the comic value of the EFF’s disruptions had worn somewhat thin. Parliamentary conventions exist for a good reason – they form the framework of minimal civility that is necessary for groups who loathe one another to conduct the affairs of the nation.

But the EFF’s abuse of procedure is a minor matter. What the ANC should be pondering is how MPs who have signed a parliamentary oath to abide by and protect the Constitution can be allowed to get away with behaviour outside parliament that flouts that same Constitution.

Last week Zuma’s controversial cronies, the Gupta family, went to court for an interdict forbidding EFF threats of violence against them and their employees at ANN7 television and The New Age newspaper.

The court granted the interdict and also ruled that the EFF was not allowed to prevent these journalists from attending public political events.

This was in response to the EFF warning that the “Zuptas” should vacate Gauteng and SA immediately, “otherwise the predictability of what could happen to them and any of their properties becomes a highly volatile matter”.

If they did not leave voluntarily, they would be “physically driven out … by any means possible”.

In court, Malema disingenuously explained that these were not calls for violence, but simply part of robust political debate.

This while knowing full well that his supporters were at that very moment demonstrating outside the Constitutional Court with placards saying “Guptas must go”, “We’ll fight fire with fire”, and singing “Shoot Zuma, shoot the Guptas”, the latest variation of Malema’s favourite ditty, “Shoot the Boer, shoot the farmer”.

Malema’s moral sophistry is dangerous; a disease that is clouding South African thinking. Increasingly, it is being used to justify the unjustifiable, which is necessary if one wants to lay the foundations for revolutionary violence.

These are the people that argue that it is okay to burn art on the grounds that it dates from the apartheid era. Or that it is okay to torch a bus because it is a “symbol” of oppression.

These are actions not far removed from our unfortunate recent history when it was thought perfectly justifiable to place burning tyres over the heads of collaborators and informers, or even just those one disagreed with.

For liberation can be used to justify anything. The EFF has a thinly veiled contempt for democracy and the law.

These are useful only in so far as they can be used to camouflage the EFF’s totalitarian and fascist intentions. Malema’s response to the Gupta verdict is emblematic of this.

“We must respect the courts … [but] the better option is for them to go… I had planned a surprise for them. Because we respect the courts, we will postpone the surprise. Once we appeal, we will give them their surprise.”