ANC: Who's afraid of EFF and Agang?
An internal ANC election survey that has found that the new kids on the block – the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) and Agang SA – are making serious inroads among the ANC's traditional support base. And the ruling party is not amused.
Senior ANC leaders familiar with the findings said this week that the EFF poses a serious challenge for the ANC among the unemployed, disgruntled youth and people living in the country's sprawling informal settlements. The new party's leaders have thrown a lot of energy and resources into campaigning in areas where these people – the new party's potential supporters – live.
According to the survey, Agang SA has made some advances among the black middle class – a key constituency that became affluent because of the ANC's affirmative action and black economic empowerment policies.
The existence of the study was confirmed by an ANC national working committee member, Lindiwe Zulu, and the ANC Youth League (ANCYL) convenor, Mzwandile Masina, who is also a member of the party's national election team. But both Zulu and Masina played down the impact of the new parties, saying their current success and hype were fleeting.
Masina said: "What I know is that the study notes the advent of new parties and how they are over-concentrating on [criticising] the ANC. With regard to the youth, you know there are a number of youth that are not registered and they [the new parties] will appeal to them.
"The ANCYL has played a major role in attracting the youth. We are, however, not going to be complacent. If you noticed, they [opposition parties] are eating at each other's support. We have a track record in government and this give us the edge," he said.
Zulu, who is also President Jacob Zuma's international adviser and the chairperson of the ANC's subcommittee on communications, said the survey was conducted by the party's research unit to assist the ANC to better understand the political landscape before the elections next year.
"The research survey is not entirely on the Economic Freedom Fighters and Agang SA," she said. "It covers a wide range of issues such as attitudes of people towards the ANC, how people view us and the mood in the country. We are looking at broader political landscape of the country before we go into elections."
Zulu added: "Fortunately, it is not the first time we find ourselves in this landscape. We've had this in the last election with Cope [Congress of the People]. The difference is that we as the ANC have a plan, irrespective of who is coming in.
"Whenever there are new kids in the family, there is excitement. However, for kids to grow up, it depends on the capacity of the parents. These new kids on the block – the EFF and Agang SA – don't have good parents who will make sure that they grow up.
"The ANC has grown to what it is today because it had good parents who had the skill and the capacity to nurture it. These ones, they don't have parents and they are going to disappear like yesteryear's new kid on the block, Cope, who were gone before they were even teenagers," she said.
But the EFF's head of policy and research, Floyd Shivambu, warned that the ANC underestimated the impact the EFF was making in communities at its own peril.
"Let them talk with arrogance; our strength will be reflected on the ground and when we go to elections in 2014," he said. "The track record the ANC is boasting about is actually its biggest weakness, because it is a track record of dismal failure to redistribute land. It is a track record of dismal failure to create sustainable job opportunities. It is a track record of building lousy houses and it is a track record of protecting the interests of big capital, of killing workers in Marikana, or under-employment. It is a track record of corruption and unaccountability in government."
Shivambu said that, unlike other opposition parties that came before it, the EFF would not disappear but grow in strength and would replace the ANC as government.
"Our political programme moving forward will include building of progressive, militant and radical workers' unions, professionals bodies, community-based organisations and important, strong EFF structures.
"Also, if EFF continues to grow and develop in the pace we witnessed in the first 100 days, we will reach the one million membership mark in less than 10 months," he said.
Zulu said the research would also be used to develop the party's elections manifesto, due to be consolidated this weekend at the ANC's manifesto forum to be held in Centurion, near Pretoria.
"We've just completed what people are saying. We're going into a meeting that will talk about what should be in the elections manifesto. We're going to look at what they are saying. These are the same things that our people are concerned with, like education, housing, health, safety and security, and so on. We are not acting in a vacuum," she said.
Masina said the youth league was planning to use the manifesto forum to propose changes in the country's Constitution in order to fast-track economic transformation.
"We need to accelerate developments in areas of the economy," he said. "Certain things need to change in the Constitution. There are a lot of things in the Constitution that need to change. Our team of researchers is working on things that need to be done. The issue of land is a very important area of work we need to focus on."
However, ANC economic policy head Enoch Godongwana said it was unlikely the ANC would agree to tamper with the Constitution even if it received a two-thirds majority.
"I don't know what is it that is a concern," he said. "The property clause does not prevent us from doing what we want to do. Why should we change it? What are we trying to achieve? It does not mean we have to use any other silly language to sound leftwing."