There seem to be a few unwritten Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) rules: choose any colour as long as it is red; when you disagree, use colourful language; and when you fight, go for the jugular.
The intensifying tiff between two factions within the EFF has ticked at least two of those boxes. This week its former national co-ordinator Mpho Ramakatsa lambasted the party’s secretary general, Godrich Gardee, for his accusation that disgruntled people were positioning themselves outside of the party.
“I was shocked that he [Gardee] would make wild accusations about some of us opening a party. If his intention is to get rid of us, it is not going to be easy,” Ramakatsa told the Mail & Guardian.
But Gardee hit back, saying “only the guilty are offended”.
“Why would you think we are talking about you if you say you are not guilty?” Gardee asked.
Dissent in the ranks
Dissent among the red berets emerged after it was alleged that EFF commander-in-chief Julius Malema and his allies in the leadership were purging people. Gardee and Malema acknowledged divisions in the party this week, with the party president calling the rebels “lizards”.
Malema further said that he was aware of attempts by pockets of people who had not been elected to leadership positions to use EFF resources to create another political party.
But Ramakatsa responded: “It was really irresponsible of that structure [the EFF top six] to attack members of the organisation, who have worked so hard and tirelessly in building this organisation. To imply that we would go out and put our all into this movement, only to turn around and destroy it?”
Ramakatsa and EFF MP Andile Mngxitama, who were associated with the black consciousness group in the party, failed to make it on to the top six list at the party’s December conference.
Since then, there have been reports that Mngxitama has written to Malema, accusing him of purging employees.
Gardee said they would not refer to any individual responsible for furthering the divisions in the party but admitted that the rifts were visible.
Ramakatsa would not admit there were splits in the organisation.
“There are no cracks in the party. People went to an assembly with different views and now obviously people are treating each other with suspicion because of the different views and opinions during the assembly,” he said. “Now the other side that appeared to have won now seems to be trying to get at those that did not agree with them, within the structures of the organisation, and unfortunately it is affecting the employees of the organisation.”
Gardee denied the purge and added that there was an insatiable ambition among certain leaders “to lead and not be led”.
Ramakatsa insisted that the party was purging members who were seen to be on “their side”.
He refused to name them and instead quoted the case of the former Bloemfontein membership officer, Lefu Semela, who was reported to have been one of those fired.
Semela said he was told by EFF provincial chairperson Kgotso Morapela to work for Ramakatsa. “They don’t understand that I have known him [Ramakatsa] from before the EFF was formed and I was not taking sides,” Semela said. “I was just verbally told to go on Monday, January 5.”
In a City Press report, Morapela said Semela was a volunteer who was paid a stipend.