Julius Malema, the radical leader of South Africa’s Economic Freedom Fighters. (Image via Twitter: Economic Freedom Fighters @EFFSouthAfrica)

By *Jomo Sanga Thomas

(Plain Talk, May 17, 2019)

The biggest winner in the South African elections was Julius Malema, the radical leader of the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF). The EFF electoral clout was increased by 4 percentage points while the ANC vote count decreased by 4 percentage points. The EFF gained 19 seats in the parliament to take its count to 44 while the ANC seat count was reduced by 19. It is safe to say that Julius Malema’s movement gain was the ANC and the DA’s loss. Malema, 39 years old, campaigned on the radical platform of nationalising the money-making levers of the country’s economy, such as the mines and the banks, as well as returning the lands stolen from the people by the Apartheid racist.

The African National Congress, the nationalist movement that endeared itself to the masses of South Africans during the long and brutal struggle against Apartheid, lost even though it has won all of the elections since one man one vote came to South Africa in 1994. The ANC, which won mass support based on its leadership of the struggle tipped its hand as to how it will govern when Nelson Mandela committed in principle to merge with De Klerk’s brutal, fascist pro-Apartheid National Party. Mandela’s commitment to reconciliation reverberates to this day. It was an early signal that the radical wing of the movement had lost the struggle for leading, directing and charting the course of the post-Apartheid South Africa.

During the long years of struggle, the ANC political platform called for the nationalisation of the economy, the return of the lands to the toiling masses. By 1994, these democratic principles give way to pragmatism best reflected in the emphasis on truth and reconciliation. But the truth and reconciliation was a farce. The single most targeted and tarnished individual emerging from the reconciliation exercise was the anti-Apartheid giant, Winnie Mandela. De Klerk shared a Nobel Peace prize with Nelson Mandela. The murderous criminals in the military and security forces never even bothered to testify. No one demanded they did, but Winnie Mandela was hounded and tarred as a kidnapper and murderer. Most importantly, white local and foreign moneyed interest maintained control of the economy.

A few blacks, best typified by the current president Cyril Ramaphosa, were allowed into the boardrooms and given an opportunity to make millions. A tiny black bourgeoisie gained ascendancy. Meanwhile, Nelson Mandela was feted in all of the major capitalist centres as an iconic figure. The international business class knew that they were safe with Mandela at the helm. And they were right. They had to do one simple thing and they did it with aplomb. They organised the assassination of Chris Hani, the dynamic revolutionary leader, who was second in popularity only to Mandela.

Mandela was succeeded by Thabo Mbeki, who proudly declared that he was a Thatcherite, a protégé of Margaret Thatcher, the reactionary former British Prime Minister. Thatcher, along with Ronald Reagan, was the most important political leaders in the rise and triumph of the neoliberal economics which have ravaged the world. Mbeki was followed by Jacob Zuma, who bared his past revolutionary spurs to win the presidency and then engage in a series of corrupt and immoral practices that further embarrassed the ANC and sent it reeling.

The ANC’s 57 per cent of the vote in last week’s elections was lowest it had received since the democratic vote was offered in 1994. The murder of 69 mineworkers in Marikina in 2012 and the emergence the pro business Ramaphosa, who was a director of the mining company where police shot and murdered the striking worker, ensures that the ANC support will continue to dwindle. The ANC’s vote share peaked in the 2004 national elections, when it received 69.69 per cent of the vote, but it dropped to 65.9 per cent in 2009 and to 62.15 per cent in 2014. It has lost 12 percentage points between 2004 and 2014.

The other major party that suffered defeat in the elections was the Democratic Alliance. The DA, a right-of-centre political outfit is dominated by the white South African middle class and a section of the industrial and banking elite. After the last elections, the party tried to win some black African support by electing Mmusi Maimane, a black man, as leader. But the DA, which got 22 per cent of votes and 89 seats in the 2014 elections, saw its share of the votes drop by 2 percentage points. It garnered 5 seats less this time around. The Black masses refused to be duped even though a black face was given the mantle of leading the party.

Why do we characterise Malema’s EFF performance a victorious defeat? Of the major parties in South Africa, the EFF is the only one that gained ground. The ANC parliamentary seat count dropped from 249 in 2014 to 230. The Democratic Alliance also lost ground. Malema’s EFF garnered 1.8 million votes to the ANC 10 million and the DA 3.6 million. Both the ANC and the DA were well financed while the EFF was scoffed at from its inception and had to struggle real hard to finance a national campaign. Lesson: Dare to struggle. Dare to win.

After the 2019 elections, no serious observer in South Africa will downplay the influence or relevance of the Economic Freedom Fighters and its leader Julius Malema. If the trends continue — and they are likely to so do because of the pro-business, neo-liberal lock which the economic elite has on the ANC — the people will continue to experience dire hardships. Unemployment and poverty remains high.  Increasingly, the people are seeing that the vote by itself will not bring freedom from deprivation and want. They can see clearer than ever that health problems, especially HIV, poor sanitation, lack of pipe borne water and corruption plague the land while a few, especially a white local and foreign elite, along with a few Black faces continue to live luxuriously.

Malema’s EFF has a bright future and can become a king maker by the 2024 general elections.

*Jomo Sanga Thomas is a lawyer, journalist, social commentator and Speaker of the House of Assembly in St. Vincent and the Grenadines.

The views expressed herein are those of the writer and do not necessarily represent the opinions or editorial position of iWitness News. Opinion pieces can be submitted to news.iwitness@gmail.com.

10 replies on “A victorious Defeat”

  1. Frederick Caiger says:

    A very slanted version of events that totally ignore the honest truth of what the situation really was, and what it has become today.I suppose it is optimistic to expect anything more.

  2. Marc Van Vuuren says:

    Very elegantly expressed Mr. Thomas, there are so many wrongs that have yet to be righted and so many injustices that are completely unforgivable and unfathomable, it appears to me that the only radical change in the South African political landscape has been the appointment of one dictator over another, pre 94 to 2019 the major difference is the colour of the dictator. As for Mr. Malema, he preaches racial hatred from an unstable pulpit, it will crumble. His rhetoric is tantamount to economic genocide, not to mention ethnic ckeansing, Marxist at its best. Give the poor want they want to hear for personal advancement. He is an evil little man with clouded vision. Its so unfortunate that he does not share the dream of Dr. Martin luther King..

  3. Nothing was mentioned about malema’s statements about killing the Boer and white man ?????

  4. Well said sir Thomas it’s might seem victory broken EFF but I doubt it’s a beginning of EFF they gain support on the ground young people will gain trust and confidence for malema very passionate its a break through to curtains of revolutionary fall apart

  5. Dr Israel - Charles Neophytou says:

    Malema is the only viable option for the future of South Africa.The elites will give way and by the next election Malema will be the maker of the emperor …let alone kingmaker.G’day from Australia the most successful multicultural nation in the world thanks to the LEFT.

  6. C. ben-David says:

    Left-wing extremists like Jomo Thomas would never be satisfied until South Africa becomes consumed by a bloody revolutionary war culminating in a Zimbabwe-like failed state.

  7. C. ben-David says:

    Julius Malema is South Africa’s version of Robert Mugabe, the brutal thug of a leader who destroyed the prosperous country of Rhodesia by transforming it into the hell hole now called Zimbabwe with his nepotistic and corrupt economic policies.

    Although Mugabe ruined the Zimbabwe economy he was only an armchair socialist; Julius Malema, on the other hand, is a genuine socialist who would wreck South Africa’s economy in the blink of an eye if he ever gained power.

    Nelson Mandela, South Africa’s first Black leader, a man who dismantled the wicked apartheid system, never remotely supported Julius Malema’s genocidal race-war rhetoric (“kill the Boer”).

    The corrupt post-Mandela African National Congress (ANC) gave birth to people like Malema and has seen the country and its people worse off today in many respects than during the apartheid era: poverty, unemployment, income inequality, life expectancy, and land ownership have all gotten worse over the past 25 years.

    The oppressed Black people of South Africa, a country with huge wealth and resources, deserve far better leadership than the ANC has ever provided or that Malema’s Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) would ever provide.

  8. The problem is not capitalism, but corruption. Venezuela shows that a socialist government can be no less corrupt than a capitalist one. What SA needs is honest government committed to a Social-Democratic platform.

  9. Makhorometsa Modidietsane says:

    We fail to acknowledge that the same Malema you are applauding today ones said he will “kill for Zuma” on his way to looting the fiscus of the impoverished Limpopo province. A thief who stole money from VBS Bank, an associate of the Mafia and criminal underworld who continues to fund his party. Wait a moment….take a puff. Kindly explain how do you build a 4Mil haven with a 20K p/m salary……Bennito Mussolini in the making .

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