Despite the militant Economic Freedom Fighters’ solid outward appearance, the youthful party is beset with divisions and squabbles at grassroots level, with infighting and factionalism that threaten to tear the party apart.
It is feared the infighting among members of the regional command teams (RCTs) in the Free State and Gauteng could cost the EFF crucial votes in the 2019 elections. In the Free State alone, all regions are said to be malfunctioning, and concerned members have blamed it on the ongoing feud between provincial command team chairperson Kgotso Morapela and provincial secretary Mandisa Makesini – both members of the provincial legislature.
A Bloemfontein-based EFF member, who wants to remain anonymous, claimed the Morapelo-Makesini feud had cause widespread instability in all the five regions, with RCTs divided between their respective supporters.
The provincial command team (PCT) is also malfunctioning, with only Morapelo, Makesini and another member, Baba Sebolao, left in the structure.
Now angry Ground Force members – party volunteers not attached to any constitutional structure – want to take over leaderships at regional level, with some so disillusioned they have threatened to boycott the EFF in the 2019 polls unless it put its house in order. Morapela was brought to the Free State from national level to bring stability due to a leadership vacuum.
But his arrival was allegedly not welcomed by Makesini.
“The rift between Kgotso and Mandisa is tearing the EFF apart in the Free State. This problem has affected the entire province and all the regional command teams are not functioning throughout the province,” the member said.
Members had praised Morapela for being an “honest leader”, who has opposed some of Makesini’s decisions, including her alleged move to fire certain councillors without consultation. The Mangaung region has been hardest hit by infighting.
The region had been without leadership since 2015 after the previous RCT was disbanded by the EFF Central Command Team (CCT), due to squabbles.
The CCT despatched Lerato Tito and Celeste Motsepe to stabilise the region and organise a conference to elect a new RCT.
This move backfired when a newly elected RCT, led by Boitumelo Radebe as chair and Mpho Ramatlama as secretary, was forced to disband after some of its members allegedly misbehaved and insulted the CCT and PCT members.
“Presently there are no branches in Mangaung. You ask yourself, how did they elect an RCT when there are no branches in good standing,” the member said.
Not only the Mangaung region has faced problems, but all other regions, including Xhariep, Lejweleputswa, Thabo Mofutsanyane and Fezile Dabi, have been non-functional and beset by factionalism between Morapela and Makesini followers.
“If you don’t toe the line, Mandisa will kick you out. Mandisa does not follow protocol, and Kgotso wants to do things by the book.
“We know that Makesini has the backing of some CCT members and that is why she behaves like that,” said the member.
In Gauteng, the Johannesburg region, also known as the Sofasonke Mpanza region, was the hardest hit by squabbles. Ongoing tensions between the RCT and Ground Force has dominated debates.
A Soweto-based EFF member said anonymously the Ground Force had become law unto itself.
“Some of them carry guns in meetings. They want their positions to prevail in EFF meetings. They are real anarchists who do not account to constitutional structures,” the member said.
But despite the Ground Force power and influence in the party, their plan to dominate the RCT leadership elections was defeated when the previous RCT members were re-elected.
Those returned to the executive were chairperson Musa Novela and his deputy Kgabo Hlonyana, Silumko Mabona as secretary, Phuti Phaka as deputy secretary and Khan Sifile as treasurer.
Attempts to get hold of EFF spokesperson Mbuyiseni Ndlozi failed and secretary-general Godrich Gardee said he was unaware of infighting.
“If there were members who were suspended, they must give you suspension letters to prove it,” said Gardee.
Political analyst Dumisani Hlophe said such infighting was part of South African politics.
He said it was not easy to see factionalism in the EFF, unlike the ANC, because it was a smaller party.
“Factionalism affects political parties across the board. In the EFF, the top is still solid and there is a very strong dominance by Julius Malema – but it doesn’t mean someone won’t challenge them,” Hlophe said.