EFF vs. ANC: a march towards violence
When the EFF won 6% of the national vote, everyone was asking whether Malema and his crew of upstarts could conform to Parliament’s rules. Since then, the party has shaken up the National Assembly dress code. Malema was kicked out Parliament for refusing to withdraw his comments that the ANC killed people in Marikana. And EFF MP Andile Mngxitama has taken on the Freedom Front Plus both inside and outside the chamber. Until last Thursday, however, the “shake up” was relatively mild.
Enter Zuma and the escalation of the biggest post-election drama in 2014. Last Thursday, Malema asked the president when he would pay back the money, as recommended by Public Protector Thuli Madonsela. Zuma dodged the question and set off a game of Russian roulette, with neither party backing down, auguring worse things to come. He drew chants from the EFF – “Pay back the money!” – and Speaker Baleka Mbete paused proceedings.
Then things got serious. Mbete quickly asked the Sergeant at Arms to expel the EFF and Police Minister Nkosinathi Nhleko called for riot police to remove the 25 elected MPs. ANC MPs reportedly wanted to beat up the EFF and police had mobilised as though they expected another Marikana.
The tension eased when Zuma left and Mbete adjourned the sitting, but the situation continues to simmer. It’s clear ANC Secretary General Gwede Mantashe wants the EFF members arrested if they try to protest again. He has compared the EFF to the rise of the Nazis and thinks there could be a coup d’etat. Both the ANC Youth League and MK Military Veterans Association are using violent rhetoric, ready to rumble. Ministers in the Justice, Crime Prevention and Security Cluster warned that democracy and the safety of citizens was under attack.
On Monday, Malema condemned the ANC’s use of violent rhetoric and claimed that if the EFF had made the same statements the country would be up in arms. Then on Talk Radio 702 on Tuesday evening, according to the party’s Twitter account, he said, “The issue of establishing a military wing and going underground cannot be ruled out because the ANC is adopting Apartheid tactics.”
Let that stew for a second. Malema’s always fancied himself as a revolutionary and is now actually talking about a military wing.
Neither the ANC nor the EFF want to blink, so the situation continues to escalate. “If the ANC security cluster wants to arrest us, tear gas us, or shoot to kill us, then let [it] be. The EFF is ready for any form of violence because no amount of war talk, no amount of intimidation will deter it from robustly raising issues and holding the executive accountable,” said EFF spokesperson Mbuyiseni Ndlozi on Tuesday. On Wednesday the party released a statement: “The ANC is mobilising hooligans in the townships of Cape Town to come and assault EFF MPs today in Parliament. The EFF has learned of that they are loud-hailing across the townships, promising people free buses to go to Parliament and deal with the EFF.”
Reports suggested there were a significant amount of ANC supporters in the gallery on Wednesday, but the ANC denied they were there to cause trouble. “Such a claim can only be an invention of an over-zealous imagination and an uncreative publicity strategy probably aimed at diverting attention from real acts of hooliganism that took place in Parliament on Thursday. Mobilising supporters and MPs to cause chaos in the institution is a dirty modus operandi for which the EFF, not the ANC, is infamous and proud,” said the office of the ANC chief whip on Wednesday.
During the sitting of the National Council of Provinces (NCOP), Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa was answering questions but the EFF did not stage a repeat of last Thursday. Ramaphosa spoke on taxes, an issue Malema has been in court for, and said tax evasion was a crime against the state and its people. When EFF MP Leigh-Ann Mathys tried to ask him whether he had lied to the Marikana Commission, NCOP chair Thandi Modise cut her off and said the question wasn’t relevant to the discussion.
The EFF’s decision not to protest on Wednesday, despite having blamed Ramaphosa in the past for the Marikana massacre and selling out his people for profit, follows the party’s history of selective action. They demonstrate when it will benefit them most on the issues that are seen as most important, but they are careful not to continually subvert parliamentary processes.
“The ANC has always planned violence against the EFF, even during the elections,” said Ndlozi on Wednesday night, citing examples of intimidation against EFF members during the campaigning period. He criticised the ANC for using the Security Cluster to try to intimidate the EFF rather than face criticism in Parliament. “We’ve always advised Fighters to be fearless,” Ndlozi said when asked if the party is giving any advice to members during the current climate. It’s a democratic country and the EFF has the right to exist, he added.
The ANC chief whip’s office on Tuesday defended the party’s use of parliamentary processes and argued that it had been following the laws of South Africa’s democracy while the EFF had been trying to flout them and play to segments of the public who are against the ruling party. But a statement from the ANC’s top leaders last month clearly establishes its attitude towards the EFF: “South Africa has also witnessed the entering of a fascist movement into our parliamentary politics. This movement uses uniform to mobilise in the same way that Hitler used brown shirts in 1930s. The worrying factor in this regard is its use of anarchy and destruction as their modus operandi. This anarchy and destruction fits in to the paramilitary content of their strategy, which shows early signs of a rebel movement; designed and calculated to undermine democracy and state institutions.”
Rebel movement, anarchists, fascists – classifying the EFF as such almost justifies the violence to come.
While the ANC said it wouldn’t stoop to the EFF’s level, what happened last week scared the party. The ANC is dealing with a new beast, an opposition that knows how it works, knows how the media works, and doesn’t give a damn about bedside manners. Instead of dismissing the EFF, which took only 6% in the national elections, the ANC’s itself is scared, and both its structures and the state’s security forces are being called on to defend the party. In short, the ANC is playing the EFF’s game and is exposing itself as open to violence and abusing state power to sanction an opposition party.
In a game of Russian roulette, someone will eventually fire a bullet. Either in Parliament or in public, the EFF and ANC will likely come to blows. Both parties are raising the rhetoric for their own political purposes, but if their supporters have to face off in the streets, we should be worried. DM
Photo: Policemen break up a scuffle between Economic Freedom Fighters MPs and ANC members at Parliament in Cape Town on Thursday, 21 August 2014. Picture: Nardus Engelbrecht/SAPA
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