/ 25 February 2014

EFF election manifesto plays it safe

There are aspects of the manifesto that suggest the EFF is at at least in touch with current issues facing society.
There are aspects of the manifesto that suggest the EFF is at at least in touch with current issues facing society.


The Economic Freedom Fighters's (EFF's) election manifesto, launched in front of about 50 000 people in Tembisa at the weekend, represents a consolidation of the policies the party has been sprouting since its existence. However, it is not without a few inconsistencies and vagueness.

The party's nationalisation model as represented by the manifesto, for example, still doesn't adequately unpack the sticky issue of community control. Specifically mentioning a paltry 10% share for communities where mines are situated, Malema said that 60% state ownership is what the EFF's manifesto required. This would apply to private banks, existing companies, existing mines and mining activities too.

Should the party attain power, mineworkers will be among the better paid workers in the country. R12 500 topped the list of salaries that Malema read out in his speech. The rationale given for the other figures – such as a proposed minimum wage of R4 500 for domestic workers, petrol attendants' R5 000 and private security guards' R7 500 – are, according to the party's spokesperson Mbuyiseni Ndlozi, in line with the sectoral demands from unions involved in recent strikes. In the National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (Numsa) petrol attendants' strike, workers called for a R6 000 minimum wage. When private security guards marched on the department of labour in September last year, they asked for exactly R7 500. The general call for a minimum wage of R4 500, which would include domestic workers, probably stems from last year's Cosatu congress discussion papers, which made the call for R4 500. 

In December last year and under the Basic Conditions of Employment Act, the minimum wage for domestic workers reached close to R2 000, with R1 877.70 being the determined minimum wage for a 45-hour week in the highest of categories. 

Remedying xenophobia
The party's election manifesto also calls for a uniform doubling of South Africa's current social grant payouts, which, it announced during the manifesto launch, could be achieved by shifting the administration duties to the state. But the controversial Cash Paymaster Services tender, whose awarding was rendered constitutionally invalid in last year, came into being precisely because of state inefficiency. To the Mail & Guardian, Ndlozi said other ways that would help the party achieve the doubling was through the other proposals that the EFF suggested about restructuring the fiscus, such as the elimination of tenders and the cutting of perks for ministers. 

The manifesto says public representatives with salaries should use their own cars and stay in their own houses. It also calls for the reduction of travel costs by centralising the legislative and administrative seats in one city.

The EFF continues in its self-styled image as the party to solve the country's woes in its attempt to tackle its xenophobia problems. It's manifesto talks of ensuring "that all workers enjoy the same rights as set out in labour law irrespective of their immigration status". The party doesn't explicitly touch on how it could improve the lot of  many of the country's foreign nationals, languishing without asylum or work permits. For the answer to "achieving unity and combating xenophobia", one has to turn to its founding manifesto,  which proclaims that the "EFF will advocate for the ultimate integration of the African continent through the erosion and eventual elimination of unnecessary borders … "

Ndlozi said the party would lobby the African Union for this to happen. But the logic underpinning this is that it is, in a way, already happening. "You have to decriminalise migration because the free flowing movement of people is good for economic growth," he said.  

There are aspects of the manifesto that suggest the party – if nothing else – is at least in touch with current issues facing society. It has promised to "physically remove" e-toll gantries, pledged to protect the rights of street hawkers to trade without fear of police harassment" and impose a tax on corporations to fund the education of all South Africans from "early childhood development to the attainment of a post-secondary qualification".  

Manifesto's vagueness
The manifesto is, surprisingly, quite vague on issues of gender, particularly on issues of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex rights. While the founding manifesto is more forthcoming, this suggests that, perhaps, championing of gay rights is not deemed a safe electioneering ticket in the organisation. Considering the wave of homophobia sweeping through Africa's corridors of power, it's a pity.

Also, while the EFF professes to eradicate the production of "genetically modified organisms", spreading information about food cartels and emphasising its preference for sustainable energy, it shows itself up as not green enough, missing out on the current debates about medical marijuana and the suitability of hemp as a viable and efficient industrial product. The positive impact of marijuana decriminalisation on the lives of poor cannot be overstated and the EFF could have moved the debate beyond the clutches of fringe, one-issue parties. 

But while deeming the manifesto reasonable, outlandish or ultimately feasible is purely a matter of political orientation, one hopes that in the years it will take for the party to become a legitimate government hopeful, it will develop an appreciation for the long, arduous road to effect policy change.