Yes, I know it’s a slightly facetious headline, but bear with me. It was essentially one reaction for me among many to reading the now famous article by Marianne Thamm on what she supposedly found in the “EFF’s trash” in Camps Bay.
For Thamm, it was apparently a big deal and a major exposé to discover that a group of unidentified members of the EFF may in fact be hypocritical in their choice of lifestyle when contrasted with the party’s revolutionary rhetoric.
No shit, Sherlock.
I know there are many people out there who really believe in and buy the revolutionary snake oil that the EFF peddle, and I almost feel a bit sorry for them. I feel even more pity for the rest of us who may end up being thrown under the runaway populist bus if it ever really gets moving – but I always have to remind myself that the EFF top dogs don’t really mean what they say, and they are smart enough to probably even know that themselves.
Another part of me suspects that they’ve had to really force themselves to believe it, just for the sake of coming across as believable, which they mostly do pull off if you put them in front of a camera or give them a microphone.
Still, who doesn’t know (or at least strongly suspect) by now that the Economic Freedom Fighters primarily exists as a vehicle to ensure that the two key individuals who dreamt it up are able to achieve their primary, personal ambitions?
These are, among many other seriously obvious things:
- Making money: their ongoing success in politics – impressively, despite being given the boot by the ANC and having to dodge numerous corruption allegations – has kept EFF leader Julius Malema and his sidekick Floyd Shivambu very well heeled. The EFF receives millions from parliamentary funding and salaries, presumably makes good money from the sale of T-shirts, berets and other merchandise, has generous political donors from both legitimate and criminal enterprises and, as the VBS bank saga showed us, they remain well versed in the art of looting and corruption. All of this wouldn’t be possible if they hadn’t launched their party and dressed it in the language of revolutionary communism, never mind the actual dressing up in mining overalls and domestic worker outfits.
- Staying out of jail: Malema and his many co-accused have much to answer for as alleged criminals, especially when you look at what he got up to in Limpopo when he was the president of the ANC Youth League. The existence of the EFF has allowed Malema to maintain the façade that ongoing efforts to prosecute him are part of some sort of political conspiracy by his enemies. Point one, making money, also helps a lot here.
- Settling some scores: The existence of the EFF proved to be a great way to get revenge on the people Malema and Shivambu believed had stabbed them in the back in the ANC. The party was regularly able to insult, interrupt and otherwise embarrass their one-time hero, Jacob Zuma, when he was president, and now they’re proving to be a thorn in the side of the one man, Cyril Ramaphosa, who ensured they were expelled from the ANC in 2012. The fact that they happen to know so much about the dirty laundry of the ANC, because they were the ones wearing those smelly socks themselves not too long ago, really helps them. They’re also a useful tool – a red mercenary army, if you will – for many in the ANC who are trying to undermine each other in the ongoing factional war raging in the ruling party. The EFF remain at the heart of it all, and lap it up.
- Just having fun: It really does seem, often, that the EFF know it’s all a bit of a joke, and they’re just enjoying the ride while it lasts. And it may yet last for a very long time. Wherever you look at their attitude and demeanour, on social media, at their rallies and events, when they attend social events like the Durban July and other parties, in parliament or legislatures and on TV or radio, you see people people smiling, joking and generally having a good time. They all do the vosho when being sworn in, for crying out loud. Malema’s jokes, insults and gossip-mongering just about whenever he speaks are the hallmarks of a man who isn’t really taking life all that seriously. They only get really angry when people threaten the good times, such as when journalists, prosecutors, other politicians or any perceived enemy comes forward with anything that may undermine their little game.
I could go on, but you get the idea. The primary point about them is that all the revolutionary rhetoric about nationalising all the land, the banks, the big companies and so on, which they basically copied and posted from the Che Guevara/Fidel Castro playbook, is just so they can have some sort of political product to peddle to the millions of people who are crying out for an answer to the poverty and desperation of South Africa. The EFF obviously don’t have the answer to the problem, and if they were to attempt to introduce their “solutions”, it would only make everything unfathomably worse, and I suspect – on some practical level at least – they know that too. I wish it wasn’t so. I wish the EFF’s globally tried-and-failed ideas could somehow have different results for us. But they won’t.
Nevertheless, as the 20th century showed, communism and its promises will always seem attractive to somebody, and if you can make it as sexy as the EFF have, then you’ve got a winning recipe to at least be politically attractive, while the prospect of you being administratively completely ruinous if you come to power will always loom over the poor electorate’s head.
So, personally, I’m actually quite grateful the EFF leaders are political hypocrites, because it would be really terrifying to think they really, completely believed in their own by now long-discredited economic and political bumpf. If they were the kind of true believers Marianne Thamm appeares to think they should be, that would be truly scary.
So go ahead and enjoy your Veuve Clicquot and Hennessy, guys. Keep on shopping at Louis Vuitton, where Che Guevara would have machine-gunned you all into mincemeat if he were still around to see it. I don’t begrudge you your fun.
My only concern is the warning the lead character in a book by Kurt Vonnegut had to learn the hard way: be careful who you pretend to be, because eventually that’s what you become.
The day the EFF are called upon to really walk their silly talk, when they find themselves with some actual power and putting their money where their mouth is, that’s the day we’re all properly screwed.