Monday, June 23, 2014

EFF Barking Up The Right Tree

On 16th May 2014, South Africa’s 5th democratic parliament received the list of 400 designated members for the National Assembly as well as the list of members for the Provincial Legislatures. Having elected the steering committee and Captain for SS South Africa, the nation has effectively placed the charting of a new and hopefully prosperous course through daunting waters in the hands of these 400 individuals over the next 5 years.

With the ruling party comfortably in the majority with 249 of those 400 seats, the question is really “How effective will the opposition be in keeping checks and balances to the ANC’s rule?”
The official opposition garnered 89 seats, but having been the official opposition since the 1999 general elections, one begins to wonder if there is any bite left in the DA bark.
With the arrival of the new kids on the block in the form of the EFF, I suspect we will suddenly become more enthusiastic and intrigued by the goings-on within parliamentary walls. For the first time since 1994, discussions around the water-cooler at offices across the country centered around the swearing-in of  members into parliament. While the focus may have been around the EFF dress-code, it is undeniable that the EFF know the right buttons to push to get people talking and to have the nation once again taking an interest in our countries politics.

With 25 seats to show for their first standing in the general elections, we would be foolish to write them off as a one-hit wonder. I seriously doubt that the EFF will follow in the footsteps of Cope, who came onto the scene with a bang and self-imploded with a fizzle. The EFF have certainly taken very many lessons from other political parties before them who may have started with the best of intentions, but allowed in-fighting and ego’s to be their ultimate downfall.

With the growing number of disgruntled ANC members feeling frustrated at not having an avenue to channel their frustration, either because their loyalty won’t allow them to vote for another party or because they simply choose to abstain from voting, many will now watch with interest at the questions being posed by the EFF. For many within the ruling party and even some amongst the official opposition, the EFF has presented a mouthpiece where once silent dissent was the only option. I suspect that on a vast array of issues, party politics dictated that members remain silent even if they held opposing views. I have no doubt that on issues such as the Arms Deal, HIV Aids and Thabo Mbeki’s recall, many within the ANC held very strong views which they were afraid to voice for fear of victimization or simply being left out in the cold by the majority. The same can be said for the DA. Lindiwe Mazibuko’s exit and subsequent media statements speaks volumes about the dissatisfaction within the party. Again I have no doubt that there are very many issues which polarizes DA members, but ultimately they choose to tow the party line.
When you’re part of a political behemoth which the ANC undoubtedly is, it’s easy to have your voice drowned out. Sometimes it takes the little guy on the outside to make people sit up and listen. Almost a case of David and Goliath one could imagine.

While many readers may feel that the EFF are nothing more than racists with no political backbone and too much of personal agendas, one cannot shy away from the fact that very many of the questions they have posed speak directly to the heart of their constituency.
Issues surrounding poverty, job creation and nationalization. Issues surrounding misuse of state funds and corruption. These are issues which have a direct effect on the masses, and the EFF have been quite successful in tapping into exactly what the masses want to be tabled and addressed.  The privileged few, the middle class and the employed would find their utterances to be no more than an annoyance or counter-productive howling; a fly that needs to be swatted at with contempt and disgust. The reality is that the issues they speak about resonate with a much larger and more attentive group; the youth and the unemployed, the disenfranchised and those scraping the bottom of the economic trough. When society needs to galvanize opposition to government policies or simply show dissatisfaction in the form of marches and strikes, it’s not the privileged few nor the middle-class we see in the front lines. It’s those fighting for living wages, or any wage at all. It’s that very demographic that the EFF speaks to. That demographic is in the majority, whether we accept this as fact or not.

When was the last time you saw a blue-collar middle-income or upper class individual standing at the front of a march or leading a strike or doing anything that would qualify him or her as an activist fighting a cause or standing up against injustice or oppression?
Hitting ‘Like’ on a Facebook cause or commenting on an online article doesn’t count.
The EFF know this.
They also know who their target audience is, and that target audience is getting increasingly hungry and angry.
Hungry and angry.
That’s a combination you never want to see in large numbers.

While you may not agree with many or all of their policies, one would be naive to think that working together with the EFF to find common ground and workable solutions and resolutions is an exercise in futility.
Take the example of what is currently being experienced in much of Europe. By governments consistently believing that they knew better and could dictate what was best for the general public, dissent and dissatisfaction saw the rise in many Right-Wing parties.

One cannot proclaim to be democratic and then balk at the idea of democracy when it no longer serves your objectives. European parliaments now face the prospect of having Right-Wing parties with even stronger right-wing extremist views than they were once comfortable with, now counted amongst their members. While we watch with interest at the unfolding of parliamentary events on our doorstep, the world will be watching with baited breath at the unfolding of events across Europe.

The idea of an EFF ruling party may be too far in the distance to register on the radar just yet, but the questions they pose certainly will make the ruling party uncomfortable. That on it’s own will have achieved the very objective of an opposition party. It’s when parties who govern believe that they can do so unquestioned and with impunity that democracy morphes into anarchy.

If nothing else, the EFF will certainly be barking up the right tree’s and for that reason alone, I for one am glad that we have them in parliament. I may not want them to rule, but I definitely want them making things uncomfortable for those within parliament who don’t like being questioned.

It’s time the ANC realized that parliaments doors are no longer a buffer between their arrogance and the citizens of this country.