The presence of the UDM leader at the EFF's launch has piqued the interests of many. Is a possible coalition between the parties on the cards?
Some news reports following the launch rally of the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) in Marikana on Sunday cited the presence of Bantu Holomisa as curious and strange. In fact, it is quite the opposite.
Certain political leaders operating in Marikana have argued that the United Democratic Movement leader has no ideological basis for being there. And yet, every time a rally is held in Marikana, Holomisa's popularity quickly becomes evident when he takes to the podium, as he did on Sunday to offer "support and advice".
A loud cheer preceded his speech, probably emanating from Eastern Cape-born mineworkers who constitute a commanding percentage in the platinum sector. It was these very same mineworkers who ensured that, in the post-Marikana scramble for the workers' political attention, it was clear who dominated – even if it was purely for "tribal reasons".
In March this year, a City Press report on Human Rights Day noted that Holomisa commanded at least 2 000 people when he held celebrations near the Marikana koppie. A few hundred metres away, a meeting organised by the Democratic Left Front (DLF)-aligned Marikana Support Group drew only about 100 people, despite involving other established political parties such as the African People's Convention and the Pan Africanist Congress.
At the May Day rally at Wonderkop Stadium, a similar situation transpired when Holomisa drew most applause, a possible indication as to which party the workers would vote for in a situation marked by disassociation from the ANC.
Holomisa's popularity in Marikana has revolved around helping workers get the promised 22% pay increase – a percentage believed to be a smokescreen – and chasing up investment schemes concocted by unions purportedly for the benefit of mineworkers.
The official arrival of the EFF, with its Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) certificate and crowds bussed in from all over North West, changes everything in South African politics up to this point. Holomisa, in his idiomatic turn of phrase came across as somebody fully aware of that. It could be argued that he was directly asking for some kind of an alliance.
In a speech that centred around the IEC's alleged lack of independence and how this might hamper fair elections, Holomisa included the phrases "join us [as opposition parties]" and "let's play our cards right". He went further, using a football analogy – "I will be number six and you will be number 11" – to suggest that when he passes the ball to EFF commander-in-chief Julius Malema, Malema must "shibobo" it all the way to the goalposts.
With that, he stepped off the podium giving way to Malema and his wide-ranging, rhetoric-laced speech.
But in his address, Malema's only indication that the EFF was keen on alliances was acerbic and, perhaps, a veiled attack on left groups operating in Marikana. "We will not align with opposition organisations but with fighting organisations. The organisations we join up with must not be scared of whites, they must confront whites."
While Holomisa's party can hardly be called "left-leaning", the implications of the EFF's rise for left-wing groups operating in Marikana are clear: either join up or continue feeding a leftist agenda that can appeal to the conscience but can no longer be validated by numbers.
The lived culture of the EFF remains murky, so there remains important and meaningful work to be done by the left in Marikana. For example, the DLF and the Workers and Socialist Party (which, under the banner of the Democratic Socialist Movement, arrived in the platinum belt way before Marikana) continue to offer political and legal strategy to sections of workers employed in the platinum sector. The EFF's emergence, however, suggests that that work can no longer be motivated by narrow, party political ambitions.