All eyes are on the EFF and Julius Malema as the party commences with its second national people’s assembly taking place at Nasrec in Johannesburg.
In just five years of existence, the EFF has achieved what many parties aspire to accomplish. Still considered a baby in the political space, the EFF has managed to claw its way to be the third biggest party in the country, and arguably one which commands the most influence.
In its first year, the EFF led by ANC rejects, Malema and his deputy, Floyd Shivambu, cemented its place when the party obtained 6.35% of the national vote.
Some of its achievements in 2014 included 10% of the vote in Gauteng, Limpopo and North West, knocking the DA down to become the main opposition in the last two provinces.
Still high from its 2014 winning streak, the EFF, and by extension Malema, became the kingmakers in hung municipalities, including major metros Johannesburg, Tshwane and Nelson Mandela Bay.
At the height of all its glory, the party, which claims to stand on the “righteous” path against corruption, has had to contend with a slew of allegations of corruption against its leaders.
None more damaging than the VBS Mutual Bank from which around R2bn was syphoned from poor communities of Limpopo and surrounding provinces.
With the rise of coalitions, the decline of the ANC and the troubles facing the DA, it is no wonder that South Africa will keep a close eye on the party’s conference.
These are some of the things to look out for in the next four days:
Julius Malema’s political report:
Speaking to News24 last week, Malema said the party would take a walk back through its five years of existence and assess the state of the party.
Malema’s speech is expected to also contain the party’s achievements and shortcomings.
A lot has been reported around the “people’s advocate” and his ambitions to take charge. The contentious relationship between Malema and Mpofu has been a subject of several reports in the media, with the latter believed to have fallen out of favour with Malema.
The debate around the two men by its members has led to two lobby groups dubbed “amapiano” and “amatorokisi”.
The name “amapiano”, which stems from the latest electronic music genre sweeping the nation, has been co-opted by a group of members calling for Mpofu, who is the current EFF chairperson, to return to its top six leadership.
Marshall Dlamini vs Godrich Gardee:
Favoured by Malema, Dlamini, in all appearances, looks set to be the man to replace Godrich Gardee as the party’s secretary-general. This was evident when Malema credited the known businessman for the rise of the party in KwaZulu-Natal during the 2019 elections. The party has quadrupled its support in the province, from 70 000 votes in 2014 to over 300 000.
Malema’s animus towards his secretary-general was demonstrated during a media briefing at Nasrec when he singled Gardee out, saying he had “failed to appreciate” the EFF’s support internationally. He added he was “ashamed” the Gardee report would be empty when it came to international relations.
Establishment of wings:
Malema has on many occasions complained the party’s support among women was pathetic. Some members have accused Malema of resisting the formation of youth and women’s wings, saying it would challenge his authority within the party. In its discussion document, the party identifies this as one of its weaknesses. Malema earlier told journalists he could be persuaded to establish a women’s wing to gain more support.
EFF Student Command:
Malema has been frank in his analysis of the party’s student wing, calling it a useless animal with no ability to do things without the guidance of the mother body. While some within the party believe Malema has intentions to dissolve its student unit, many believe the wing, with a 15% base in the country’s tertiary institutions, may live to fight another day. The EFF conference is expected to determine the shape and future of the student command.
The drop in the ANC’s support during the 2019 elections has signalled the rise of coalition governments in the years to come. In the past, the EFF has been at the centre of almost every coalition debate, mainly as kingmakers. Surprisingly, the party has had little to nothing to say on the subject.
Battle with the media:
The EFF’s relationship with the media has been a contentious one. On several occasions, the party has been harshly criticised by the South African National Editors’ Forum (Sanef) over its attack on journalists. Recently, the EFF banned investigative journalism units amaBhungane and Daily Maverick’s Scorpio from attending party events. In its response, the EFF has taken the victim’s stance, accusing the media of a systematic campaign to undermine and discredit its programmes and policies.