Yesterday, The Citizen reported that during an address in the East London township of Mdantsane as part of the lead up to the EFF’s birthday, party leader Julius Malema let on that this specific venue was chosen for their birthday celebrations to highlight the many problems there.
“We decided to come celebrate in Mdantsane because we wanted to show the state and the condition of the community,” he said, mentioning he would take up the issues he saw there with Parliament.
This demonstrates the manner in which the leader of the red berets could be seen to be cleverly using the party’s fifth birthday celebrations as an opportunity to campaign, rather than just to celebrate.
The choice of the Eastern Cape is significant, as in the 2014 elections, the EFF achieved 3.48% of the vote in the province, a much lower margin than the 6.35% they achieved nationwide. Similarly, in the 2016 municipal elections, the party achieved 8.19% nationally, compared with 5.18% in the Eastern Cape.
The ANC, meanwhile, won more than 70% of the vote in the province in 2014, a much higher percentage than their national taking of 62.15%. And while their support in the 2016 municipal elections was lower than it has ever been, at 53.91%, it was significantly higher in the Eastern Cape, at 65.31%.
The EFF choosing a province that is not seen as their biggest stronghold could therefore be seen as a clever tactical move. On the one hand, it allows the party to photograph their leader speaking to huge crowds in the Eastern Cape. On Twitter on Monday, they did this with the caption: “What we mean when we say Eastern Cape is the home of the EFF.”
The party is, therefore, trying to fight the perception that they do not enjoy large support in the province.
— #EFFTurns5 (@EFFSouthAfrica) July 23, 2018
On the other hand, the choice of the Eastern Cape also affords Malema an opportunity to highlight a lack of service delivery in the province in a bid to show the failures of ANC governance, which he did yesterday both during Mdantsane address and during a later address in Duncan Village, an East London township.
In Mdantsane, Malema highlighted both a lack of service delivery and the unnecessary force used by police when people take to the streets to protest. “I was at Unit P yesterday, and I met with an old disabled woman with a wound of a rubber bullet, shot by the police for protesting about the lack of service delivery,” he said.
“We will ensure all these problems and challenges are mentioned in Parliament so that they can be dealt with.”
“I am here to listen to the grievances of people so that when we return to Parliament I can report your issues,” he continued.
Malema also highlighted the disparity between East London and its informal communities, saying: “Sports grounds in the schools located in East London are better than community grounds in Mdantsane.”
He also characterised the ruling party as lazy and his own as energetic, with the ability to “shake things up”.
“We have shaken things up, and we have even woken up the Parliament. We have given those sleepists something to do.”
Finally, he brought up the spate of political killings within the ANC in areas such as KZN, saying: “They kill each other in KZN.”
Malema’s strongest message, though, involved not the failings of the ANC, but what he saw as his own party’s success in looking after the disenfranchised.
“For five years we have been fighting for our people; we want you to have jobs, we want you to have land, we want you to have free education so that you can feed your families,” he said.
“We are also fighting for the security guards, we want them to have permanent employment, and we want them to enjoy the benefits of being a worker,” he continued.
“We do the same even for the cleaners, at Wits the cleaners are now given the same benefits that all the employees of the institution enjoy. We are fighting for our people not to be exploited.”