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‘If I can’t dance to it, it’s not my revolution’

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Picture: Supplied/July 26, 2023 – The Economic Freedom Fighters is on a celebration trail as it commemorates 10 years of its existence this month, with EFF CIC Julius Malema addressing a large gathering in Marikana, North West on Wednesday.

By Kim Heller

From day one, the EFF set a new tempo for democratic South Africa. With the birth of this young political party ten years ago came the sound of a strong revolutionary beat. A beat pitched well above the incessant humdrum of the increasingly lethargic ANC and its unenergised, almost lame political programmes.

The EFF, distinctly out of tune with the inharmony of the Rainbow Nation, disrupted its false melody; a melody that had lured and lulled the revolutionary foolish into puerile ideological and intellectual frolic. Unlike the ANC, the EFF did not dance to the easy rhythm of a hop-skip and jump reconciliation-without-justice.

The birth of EFF in 2013 signalled a new ensemble of revolutionary cadres who refused to be silenced by a band of ANC elders who had long forsaken their radical pitch. Repulsed by the easy sway of the ANC as it merrily danced to the tune of its former oppressors, a grouping of young former ANCYL activists set out to create their own revolutionary refrain.

Russian political activist, Emma Goldman, and writer was alleged to have said “If I can’t dance to it, it’s not my revolution”. The EFF was to emerge as a political party that danced to its very own tune. It was not to be a dance of compromise, for it did not follow the stanza of white supremacy which saw black liberation limp and stupefied in a democratic South Africa.

As a generation of young freedom fighters which had found its revolutionary voice, there were to be no inflections of ideological droop or dance of doubt that had become the blank verse of other ANC orphans such as COPE. The EFF was never intended to be small boy’s toy-toy outside the ANC. It gained its rhythm not from the paid pipers of the powerful but from the desperate cries of the poorest and most vulnerable.

The very birth of the EFF was revolutionary. It was “born out of the blood of Marikana” the president of EFF, Julius Malema, explained at the launch of the EFF which took place in Marikana.

“An answer to the cries of the widows”

From the start, EFF positioned itself as the party for the poor and marginalised, for workers caught in the whirl of racist and capitalist exploitation. Malema also made it perfectly clear, from day one, that the party would never find itself in the acquiescent and humiliating curtsey of whiteness, a posture that had increasingly been practiced and perfected by many in the ANC. At the Marikana launch, Malema spoke loudly and clearly of how land stolen from black South Africans by whites must be returned. An impassioned Malema said, “You want us to come to you and kneel before you to ask for the land of our ancestors, we are not going to do that.”

The issue of land justice, expropriation and return, a high note of the EFF’s launch was to become a defining posture of the young party. It has been the EFF that has tried to get the ANC to change its white inspired song and dance on land reform, and free itself from the stuck-in-the-master’s mud intransigence on land expropriation without compensation. It is the EFF that has fought for the landless black child.

From its launch at Marikana in 2013, amidst the deep red-blood splatter of black lives lost in the carnivore of capitalism, to the recent celebratory carnival in the streets of Alexandra and Sandton, the EFF has danced to its very own tune. A tune that has captivated followers, not only in South Africa but on the Continent and internationally.

“A different baby is born today, a giant,” Malema said at the launch of the party in 2013. “A child that walks immediately.” The ten-year young EFF is today the third biggest political party in South Africa. On the heel of tenaciousness, rather than timidity, and on the vocals of sound ideological vibrancy, the EFF has risen up. Today its presence is felt in each and every site of struggle, including the streets, the courts and Parliament.

The voice of the EFF has carried across the breadth of the land, the Continent and internationally. From its very first breath, the young party has always raised its voice loud and confidently and today its share of voice and influence well exceeds its share of electoral support. Many in the Continent and Diaspora have been inspired by the resonant sound of the EFF voice. A voice in tune with the revolutionary vision of Africans across the globe. It is the sound of a coming revolution.

Last week’s EFF Carnival procession was a majestic display of African pride and vibrancy. Those who dismiss the EFF as a flamboyant show-off fail to examine the tangible show-and-tell of EFF delivery or the richness of its policies and programmes. The EFF is growing up well. It is a party that has transformed the very complexion and complexity of the socio-political discourse. It is the EFF that has allowed for a reimagining of an entirely different political, social, and cultural landscape.

In the foreword to the book “The Coming Revolution’ written by the deputy president of the EFF Floyd Shivambu, Advocate Dali Mpofu exclaims how South Africa’s ruling elite failed to read the signs of the current times and chose “the political suicidal route of clinging to right wing neoliberal dogma in the face of contradicting evidence and the growing suffering of the working class and the poor”.

Mpofu writes “there can be no arresting the wills of history”.

“The oppressed class will ultimately triumph. No amount of military or police brutality or other forms of repression can defeat an idea whose time has come.”

The US inventor and futurist Buckminster Fuller said. “To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete”. This is the very tune of the EFF political ideology. One that young generations of South Africans will increasingly want to dance to.

Author and Booker Prize-winner, Arundhati Roy wrote “Another world is not only possible, she is on her way. On a quiet day, I can hear her breathing”.

And when this new world arrives, the youth of South Africa will finally be able to breath and dance with a freedom they deserve and to a revolutionary track inspired by a giant generational purpose and mission.

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.