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EFF: You want land, a loan? You got it

The Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) will launch its election manifesto in Tembisa outside Johannesburg on February 23. The EFF's commissar responsible for policy and research, Floyd Shivambu, spelled out its radical policy positions.

Who writes EFF's policies? Have you enlisted services of some academics and policy experts?
EFF's policy work is mainly informed by the living conditions and daily experiences of workers. If workers in Marikana say they want a minimum of R12 500 monthly salary, we then elevate such into a policy position. If students demand free quality education, that also becomes our policy position.

We are not the kind of policy makers who sit in boardrooms and decide what are the challenges and solutions to the crises of poverty, inequalities, unemployment and under-employment without listening to the people.

Tell us about your organisation's ideology. Is it classic Marxist-Leninism?
EFF is a Marxist-Leninist Fanonian organisation. Marxism-Leninism and the ideas of Frantz Fanon constitute our ideological telescope, tools of analysis and guide to action. We are Marxist-Leninist because we appreciate that the struggle we are engaged in is a class struggle that needs working class unity and uncompromisingly fight for the emancipation of the working class.

We are Fanonian because we acknowledge that in a class struggle that takes place in a country that suffered colonial and racist subjugation for many decades, it would be foolhardy to ignore the significance of race in understanding the class exploitation that should be defeated.

What would you do differently from former communist states such as Soviet Russia?
There is a difference between socialism and communism on the basis that the former is a transitional stage to the latter, and what we are immediately in pursuit of is socialist transformation of South African society. Whether that compares to China, Russia or Cuba does not matter. We do not want to create a Russia or a China or a Cuba in South Africa. We are pursuing the struggle for socialism and [this] is not dogmatic too.

Once you attain socialism, what then? Communism?
Socialism is a transition towards communism, and the socialist transition takes a long time. It's simplistic to ask the question in the manner you are doing, and it won't enlighten discussion on the true ideological character and content of our movement.

What is the EFF's approach to nationalisation, whether it be state-centred or the type that results in public ownership of assets?
Nationalisation should result in a democratic and socialised ownership and control of the means of production by the workers to avoid a situation where the state will exclusively own the means of production and suppress workers' interests and aspirations. The ultimate purpose is to ensure that there is democratic and community control and ownership of the means of production with the aim of benefiting all the people.

EFF leader Julius Malema has said there will be firm systems in place to prevent corruption, but your policy document doesn't say much about this.
An EFF government would be at the forefront of pushing legislation that would ensure heavy and longer sentences for those convicted of corruption. The public institutions that deal with corruption and government oversight, such as the public protector and the auditor general, should be given the necessary autonomy to exercise their oversight role without fear or favour.

The EFF will insist on the independence of these institutions, and the independence of the courts and the prosecutions authority to take decisions that will help to defeat corruption.

Also, the EFF's policy of building state capacity with a view to abolishing tenders is the most sustainable solution. If the state builds its own roads, schools, bridges and delivers its own books without the help of private companies, there will be no one to bribe because internal capacity will have been built.

Building state capacity is all good and well, but that in effect means monopoly of industry. Haven't the dismal performances of our parastatals proven that state-owned enterprises with no competition are not the best service providers?
That is a pathetic neoliberal myth because there are so many state-owned enterprises that operate efficiently. This includes Transnet and Acsa [the Airports Company South Africa], despite the reality that they operate extremely complex businesses. There are state-owned enterprises that have challenges in the same way many private companies have had challenges, and [have] even collapsed the world economy. The world's biggest corporations, such as Total, are state-owned. The world's biggest airlines, such as Emirates, are state-owned.

Your promise to fight corruption is tainted because your leader is himself facing corruption charges. Why should voters believe you?
EFF commander-in-chief Julius Malema is not corrupt and the state is aware of this reality. It has been dragging its feet on the case because it has no evidence to prove the allegations made against him.

Also, to show that he is not intimidated by the courts, he has been asking them to expedite the trial and has refused postponements. Malema is a man who can be trusted because he is not hiding from the law.

Is there no danger that your radical policy of taking control of the land and the economy will damage the economy in the same way as it did in Zimbabwe?
The EFF's policy on land reform does not speak about land invasion. The Zimbabwe land-reform strategy is not similar to what EFF plans to do in South Africa. We hold Zimbabwe in high regard for its courage in going ahead with land reform against international and imperialist pressure and intimidation.

Our land policy is that the state should be the custodian of all land and should give licences and leases to land users for a maximum of 25 years on the basis of "use it or lose it". Land belongs to all of us, and no one should be selling or buying land. It is just wrong to do so.

Equitable redistribution of land will create millions of jobs because it will present an opportunity to use the money previously used to buy land to subsidise agriculture and food production. Agriculture currently employs 700 000 workers and, with proper support mechanisms that are linked to food retail and export, it has the potential to employ [as much as] 20% of South Africa's population.

Those are expensive ideas. How will you afford it? The annual budget for land claims would never be enough to subsidise agricultural production if land was completely state-owned?
The money used to buy land can be used to help with agricultural productivity and to sustain it over time. Our broad intention is to double the current budget through increases in corporate tax, increases in customs and excise taxes, and a massive increase in speculative capital inflows. The state will generate additional revenue out of its direct ownership and control of natural resources.

Besides the expropriation of land and nationalisation, what are your economic ideas?
At the centre of our economic development strategy is rapid, state-led industrial development, which will lead to the substitution of many imported goods and services.

Local beneficiation and industrialisation will add value to industrial and precious minerals and metals.

The EFF will unashamedly pursue import substitution and industrial development, and will use mechanisms such as an increase in tariffs and import duties and customs to ensure that South Africa produces and consumes domestically.

An EFF government will also revolutionise the housing mortgage system to ensure that no one pays for a house for a period of more than 10 years. This will require state subsidisation through a state bank with a development mandate.

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Verashni Pillay
Verashni Pillay is the former editor-in-chief of the Mail & Guardian, and inaugural editor-in chief of Huffington Post South Africa. She has worked at various periods as senior reporter covering politics and general news, specialises in mediamanagement and relishes the task of putting together the right team to create compelling and principled journalism across multiple platforms.

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