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A better life for all under an EFF government?

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Picture: Khaya Ngwenya / Independent Newspapers / February 10, 2024 – From left, Deputy President Floyd Shivambu, President Julius Malema, and Secretary General Marshall Dlamini during the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) Elections Manifesto Launch at Moses Mabhida stadium in Durban .

By Kim Heller

The foreword of the EFF’s 2024 election manifesto, written by the President of the party, Julius Malema, is a deeply insightful ‘State of the Nation’. Unlike SONA 2024 by President Cyril Ramaphosa, it offers a sober analysis of current day South Africa. It also provides a well-crafted set of energetic and bold solutions. Malema writes how the 1994 political democracy has “hardly translated into observable economic benefits for the majority of the people who were oppressed and exploited under colonialism-cum-apartheid”.

In the EFF manifesto, Malema speaks to how under the ANC government, black South Africans remain landless, on the periphery of economic production and “outside of life-enhancing economic participation”. Economic participation for most black people in South African is as “suppliers of cheap and easily disposable labour”. It is a dismal legacy for the ANC government, and a sad outcome for South Africa’s people.

Malema warns of the triple crises of landlessness, joblessness and loadshedding, in a country trapped in a “vicious cycle of underdevelopment and underperformance”. He writes of how South Africans face an unpredictable future “due to incompetent, directionless, and visionless government”.

The promise of a better life for all, by the ANC, has all but collapsed. Malema is confident that under an EFF government, citizens will fare better.

An article, in the Daily Investor, published on February 12, 2024, shows that since the ANC took the reins its neighbours have outperformed it in terms of GDP growth. As an example, over the period from 1993 and 2022, South Africa’s GDP increased by 275 percent, while Zimbabwe’s GDP increased by 417 percent (measured in US dollars). The miracle nation is but a mirage.

On the eve of the EFF’s election manifesto launch, the nation was plunged into darkness. Although President Cyril Ramaphosa had reassured the nation just a day before that the electricity crisis was under control, the country was struck by yet another Stage 6 blackout. In this light, or perhaps lack thereof, the EFF’s theme for the 2024 elections, “Our Land and Jobs now. Stop loading shedding!” is highly resonant.

The issue of electricity supply security was given considerable attention, not only during the EFFs manifesto launch at the Moses Mabhida stadium in KZN this past weekend, but within the body of the Manifesto itself. Julius Malema spoke confidently of how an EFF government would secure electricity supply for at least the next 20 years. The successful energy formulas of economic giants such as China will be implemented to boost national sovereignty and sustainable economic growth in South Africa.

The EFF government will prioritise effective caretaking and maintenance of existing coal powered stations to optimally enable them to provide the lion’s share of electricity needs. Renewable and nuclear energy will support and add to the main grid. The government of the EFF commits to end load shedding within six months in government. It is a bold claim, but it may not be entirely out of reach if the correct energy blueprint and available set of expertise is fully activated and charged.

The 2024 election manifesto is built largely on its solidly crafted and strongly reinforced seven cardinal pillars. The seven pillars provide the building blocks for economic sustainability, cultural restoration, and self-sufficiency. Replete with practical solutions, and a level of deliberation and detail that is likely to be superior to other election manifestos, the EFF manifesto is a serious analytical and solution offering.

There is a necessary focus on jobs. This, Malema states, is driven by the sorry truth that after 30 years of attempts at addressing the matter the ANC has failed. “More than 11 million capable South Africans who need jobs are unemployed, with no hope that anything will change unless the current government is changed”, writes Malema, “while 13 million are not economically active.” To tackle the crisis of joblessness, the EFF commits to create millions of jobs. This would be achieved primarily through ending loadshedding, a powered industrialisation thrust, road infrastructural projects, the insourcing of many categories of workers, and the creation of a state-owned security company.

In the manifesto, Malema writes that 30 years into democracy, black South Africans are still subject to economic and social apartheid, and how the ANC government has failed to use government ownership and control of state assets for the benefit of all South Africans. Under the EFF government, there will be a supersizing of state-owned companies and state control. For some this is an uncomfortable proposition.

News24’s Mpumelelo Mkhabela describes this as a booby trap. He writes: “The EFF wants the state, through state-owned companies, to be involved literally in everything. From mining to banking. From cleaning to manufacturing. Its list of targets for nationalisation and state control is vast. From Sasol, South Africa’s petrochemical multinational and all land, the state will have absolute control.”

He argues that there is no better recipe for inefficiency. But the merit of the EFF’s model of state control and nationalisation should not be judged on the poor record of ANC governance and its irreparable damage to SOEs. Rather the EFF model represents a new paradigm for the country, that if highly functional, and executed on the fuel of social and economic development could see widespread sustainable socio-economic benefits for the majority of black South Africans who have been structurally excluded and marginalised.

A large measure of state control and nationalisation is not necessarily something to be feared for it could well be the winning formula required to take the nation out of deep poverty and to establish greater country sovereignty. This is exemplified by China.

A noteworthy measure under an EFF government will be the rooting out of government tenders. Given that the state procurement process is contaminated with corruption, this is commendable.

Over its ten years of existence, the EFF has not only placed land justice at the very core of its own policy framework but has forced the issue of land justice and return it centre stage in the broader political discourse. At the Manifesto launch Malema said, “Whether they like it or not, the land will be returned to the hands of our people.” The EFF is committed to expropriating 50 percent of land before the end of 2025. This is an appropriate response to the urgent land hunger and economic deprivation that is the daily bread of most black South Africans.

The party’s manifesto launch was a resounding success. It was no mean feat for the EFF to attract close to 50 000 people in a province which is not their traditional stronghold. In the 2019 election, the EFF achieved just under 10 percent of the KZN vote. Its ambition to garner one million votes in this Province in 2024 will mean that it has to triple its 2019 electoral performance. While this may be out of reach, especially with the launch of the MK party, the EFF is likely to show real growth in some key KZN zones.

The manifesto launch was a showcase of EFF’s signature ideological clarity. As always EFF did not subscribe to the colonised version of the national anthem. Malema made it clear that under the EFF there will not be a Jan Smuts statue, there will not be a FW de Klerk name on the street, DF Malan must be replaced by Robert Sobukwe. These are important cultural and ideological markers of a political party that places value in restoring pride of place to the African child. It is a welcome relief from the colonial mentality that frames the ruling party’s engagement.

What is most exciting about the EFF manifesto is its courage to move away from prevailing neo-liberal ideologies and models which have not worked to lift people out of poverty. The manifesto provides a progressive thought-map, and a reasonable timeframe of action, which could well take South Africa into a more prosperous tomorrow.

Some may find the manifesto far too radical. But in the words of a true revolutionary leader who positively changed the fortunes of the ordinary people of Burkino Faso, Thomas Sankara, “You cannot carry out fundamental change without a certain amount of madness. In this case, it comes from nonconformity, the courage to turn your back on the old formulas, the courage to invent the future.”

Kim Heller is a political analyst and author of ‘No White Lies: Black Politics and White Power in South Africa’.

This article was written exclusively for The African. To republish, see terms and conditions.