Trash-talking the EFF … for what? Used condoms?

EFF leader Julius Malema speaks at Sankopano Alexandra stadium in Johannesburg, 1 May 2019, at a May Day Rally. Picture: Nigel Sibanda

Let’s unkink the layered attempt at painting the EFF red when we already know the true colours of the party.

A Daily Maverick reportRevolutionary trash sometimes requires trash journalism, literally highlighted what it described as the hypocrisy of the EFF’s lifestyle with regards to its pro-poor views and policies.

The EFF, as we know, strongly associates itself with the poor, even trying to “resemble” them by dressing like construction workers and domestic workers.

Following the questionable report by Marianne Thamm, we have accepted the trash she went through all belonged to members of the Red Berets. Let’s provide her with the benefit of the doubt and assume that is so.

We should not defend the EFF. We know who they are, what their manifesto says and who their supporters are. But let’s analyse Thamm’s piece for a moment in the hope of finding a solid reason for publishing it.

Marianne went though rubbish bags to investigate. Although this is not illegal, she, in this case, came up a little short. Her report provides details on a highly priced stay at a Camps Bay house ahead of President Cyril Ramaphosa’s state of the nation address, but it fails to pinpoint which members were at the place. All we end up learning is that EFF members were there, and they were drinking and practising safe sex.

The investigation suggested that some of the party’s members may not walk the talk when it comes to living in accordance with their own views, or their pro-poor approach. That’s hypocrisy. Hypocrisy may be the only thing the piece is on solid ground about.

Most EFF supporters who have pledged their allegiance to the party are sharp, witty and willing to put forward their views on the party, even if it’s to their detriment. They can hold an argument. Yes, the EFF appeals to a class that comes from poverty, is exposed to poverty, yet we cannot automatically assume those who are less fortunate are clueless ignoramuses.

Back to the piece – heaps of expensive bottles of liquor were found, with in total 37 bottles retrieved. The fighters allegedly spent at least R25,000 on French champagne brands such as Veuve Clicquot and Moët & Chandon. Discarded deposit slips, purchases from H&M and Zara, food slips from fast-food restaurants and a business class plane ticket stub for spokesperson Mbuyiseni Ndlozi were also found in the assumed members’ trash.

While the list above may have been enough, why would she add used and unused condoms into the piece?

At some point, we have to journalistically and ethically treat every party and its members equally. There are those who unfortunately aren’t treated with the same brush we would treat the ANC, DA, Cope, Good and maybe IFP. Unfortunately, in this case, the EFF fell victim. There are things we can list but others such as used condoms remain a little cheap to mention, considering that was someone’s trash.

With our rich history, there remains an underlying injustice. If I may. There are those who will never reap the consequences of Marianne Thamm camping to raid their trash. Even if it were to happen, I’m sure every other politician who attended Ramaphosa’s Sona is now on the lookout for what they throw in the trash after the Daily Maverick’s report.

I’m sure we would also love to find out what comes out of Gavin Watson’s, Angelo Agrizzi’s and prominent politicians’ rubbish.

It remains questionable whether the same information could have been obtained by other means. In my view, yes.  Were the contents found in the trash important for the public to know about? Some! But we also want to ethically preserve someone’s or in this case the party’s given right to some dignity. Even if several parties lack in that department.

The ethical imperative for any media reporter is to inform the public if the politician’s life is a contradiction to his or her public statements. Anything more, or colour added, would and should be red-carded.

Thamm’s piece, although successful in highlighting hypocrisy, could have been held back until other party members’ trash were looked at, or more proof was obtained. Hypocrisy is not illegal, and people who buy expensive Champagne are not committing a crime. Consuming these expensive bottles and throwing them away is possibly also nothing more than some members unwinding before Sona.

Gopolang Moloko

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