There is a new bunch of Economic Freedom Fighters in town – but unlike the party’s loyal rank and file, they are united in their desire to rid it of commander-in-chief Julius Malema.
Dubbed the “EFF defenders” and led by Lufuno Gogoro, the party’s ousted Gauteng organiser, the group is made up of members and former members who want Malema expelled.
With some calling themselves “members of the EFF in good standing”, the group of about 10 held its first press conference in Johannesburg today. It paints itself as the representatives of disgruntled party members who have been “forced out” in the past year.
The group said there were many more disgruntled members who could not be bussed to the press conference, but was unable to say exactly how many.
As Malema prepares to tackle President Jacob Zuma in Parliament during the president’s State of the Nation address on Thursday night, the EFF defenders will be doing the same to Malema, according to Gogoro.
“We are not going to form any party, but we are going to fight to rescue this organisation from Julius because they [the EFF leadership] are no longer doing what they were mandated to do,” said Gogoro.
“We are also going to be looking at going to the courts and discussing with our lawyers the best way forward on that. But the issue of forming a breakaway party or organisation has not even entered our minds. It is not on the table.”
‘Light years ahead’
The EFF has refused to be drawn into the matter, merely stating that it “will not be responding to a breakaway claim” adding that it “know[s] who these people are. We are light years ahead!”
Gogoro said the group would set out to mobilise displaced members and bring them back into the party to help strengthen the fight against Malema.
“And also to defend their constitutional rights. Every member has the right to be part of the political party and by ‘purging’ members, it means you don’t respect your constitution and you don’t respect individual rights. So we are going to try to lure every member who is disgruntled and those who have left to join us so that together we can fight and rescue this organisation and make sure that the cushy politicians have no space to operate.”
Gogoro was ousted in June last year, a move that party spokesperson Mbuyiseni Ndlozi said at the time was “purely organisational” and aimed at improving the overall functioning of the fledgling party’s structures.
Gogoro said the group was not attempting to damage the EFF, because the party’s leaders had already done that – it was simply trying to prevent further embarrassment.
At the EFF defenders’ press conference, there were also some people wearing purple T-shirts with the words “New EFF” and the party logo inscribed on them. Gogoro said these were people who had formed their own party after they had left the EFF last year.
“We are also trying to win them back and bring them into the party so they can join the fight. They decided to join us today at the press conference because they feel our pain and have been right where we are.”
He said the EFF and the defenders would never turn into another Congress of the People – the party formed in 2008 by disaffected ANC members after Thabo Mbeki was removed as president – as they would not allow it to disintegrate that far.
‘Why would we be happy?’
“But we are saying if Julius wants to kill this movement, we won’t allow it and it can only be the general members of the EFF who can kill it. Not Lufuno, not Malema. Only those who have given up everything for this organisation can dissolve it.”
He said people who had called them disgruntled and did not take them seriously were now joining the fight.
“Yes, we are disgruntled, because the leadership is failing the organisation. Why would we be happy?”
The EFF, refused to be drawn on the defenders’ press conference, but tweeted halfway through it, saying: “The EFF constitution demands of members to observe a unified discipline. The individual is subordinate to the organisation.”
Meanwhile, the party says it will not back down from its plan to get Zuma to answer questions on Thursday related to the money spent on his home in Nkandla, KwaZulu-Natal.
Ndlozi said the party would not wait until the date the president has set aside to answer questions as it wanted to “demonstrate the power of the Constitution”.