EFF North West elects convicted murderer to lead

Economic Freedom Fighters in the North West have chosen a convicted murderer to lead the province. (Madelene Cronje, M&G)

Economic Freedom Fighters in the North West have chosen a convicted murderer to lead the province. (Madelene Cronje, M&G)

Would-be Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) leaders who say they have fallen foul of leader Julius Malema have been disqualified from standing for internal elections over minor infractions such as campaigning on Facebook, but a leader found guilty and sentenced for murder has been allowed to stand – and win. 

An EFF member who has been found guilty of murdering an ANC leader has been elected as secretary of the North West, in the EFF’s final provincial conference over the weekend. 

Papiki Babuile is a provincial member of legislature for the EFF in the North West, where the party is the official opposition. He helped lead the party in the province as part of an appointed leadership team and now his position has been sealed in the party’s first provincial elections, despite his conviction. 

Babuile was convicted last week along with several others for the murder of the ANC’s regional secretary in the Dr Kenneth Kaunda region, David Chika.

Chika was shot and killed in his house in Alabama, Klerksdorp, on December 14 2012 just two days before the ANC elective conference kicked off in Mangaung. Babuile, who is said to be close to EFF leader Julius Malema, was an ANC youth league chairperson at the time. 

The murder of Chika took place amid tense political plotting in the lead-up to the battle between ANC president Jacob Zuma and his then deputy Kgalema Motlanthe.
The ANCYL under Malema fell out with Zuma and lobbied hard for a “change” faction under Motlanthe, which ultimately failed and spelled the end of Malema and his allies time in the ANC. 

‘Tricky case’
Disgruntled members of the party told the Mail & Guardian that Babuile being allowed to stand for leadership was a sign that Malema “prioritised friendship” at the expense of the EFF’s broader movement. 

But EFF spokesperson Mbuyiseni Ndlozi denied the charge, saying Babuile’s election was the will of the membership. “We couldn’t deny the membership.” He added that Babuile was appealing the ruling, which cleared him to stand for election in the eyes of the party’s national leadership who have been consistently supportive of Babuile. 

“It is a tricky case that had a lot of flaws,” said Ndlozi. “We have been following the case closely and we didn’t think it was a strong case.”

He added that there was no specific resolution forbidding those convicted of a crime from running for leadership within the party. 

Leaders of the EFF have worked hard to turn around their chaotic provincial conferences. The party’s first test of internal democracy went spectacularly wrong in mid-November with court action in Gauteng, violent panga fights in the Northern Cape and a battle for control in KwaZulu-Natal.

The party managed to resolve the differences in the Northern Cape and reconvene the conference by the end of November, according to Ndlozi. But with the deadline for the national conference looming, they’ve given up on Eastern Cape and KwaZulu-Natal. 

“We’ll do it afterwards,” said Ndlozi. “There just isn’t time. But we have quorum to proceed.”

The seven other provinces have all been wrapped up, said Ndlozi, and the EFF leadership were forging ahead with preparations for the national “people’s assembly” on December 13 to 16, which will be hosted at the University of the Free State. 

But murmurs of discontent persisted. 

Former leader of the EFF in Gauteng Lufuno Gogoro leads a disgruntled group in the province, and is pressing ahead with a legal charge by a disgruntled group trying to overturn the party’s Gauteng conference and interdict the upcoming national conference. 

The funding behind the legal challenge is suspect , but many of Gogoro’s concerns seem to be legitimate. He was prevented from running to lead the Gauteng province thanks to an arbitrary “disqualification” process run by the EFF leadership, which crucially does not allow members to defend themselves.

The party’s top leaders in its central command team are given enormous power to disqualify individuals from election processes if they believe they have transgressed certain rules – and without giving them a proper hearing or an opportunity to defend themselves.

Ndlozi has previously denied that the system was open to abuse. “I’ve never heard of that complaint. There is a meeting that takes place and we look at the evidence. If we disqualify [an individual], it’s not the harshest action.”

The EFF has been sensitive to attempts to interfere with the election process through expulsions and suspensions, and has forbidden these from being done while elections are taking place. 

But the disqualification process has created an extra layer of authority without sufficient accountability. The disqualification process keeps individuals out of the election process without allowing them a chance to defend themselves.

The term “disqualified” is not explicitly mentioned in the party’s election guidelines, which simply lists 17 items as “wrongful lobbying practices and unacceptable ways of influencing the leadership election processes”.

The rules prohibit the use of everything from “social networks, such as Facebook, WhatsApp or Twitter” to campaign, to “using violence, intimidation and threats to coerce those who hold a different view”.

Verashni Pillay

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.  Read more from Verashni Pillay

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