It was tempting to read something into the contrast of how Economic Freedom Fighters’s secretary general Godrich Gardee answered two simple questions about the state of the two-year-old EFF.
At Rustenburg’s Olympia Park Stadium, as the stage was being set up three days before the party’s second-anniversary rally, Gardee was eliciting palpable physiological fluctuations along with his responses.
The first question, on the number of branches established in the country, was answered with aplomb. “There are 4 277 wards in the country. The EFF has branches in at least 65% of them. The Eastern Cape has about 804 wards and we have been able to establish in excess of 500 branches. We deploy and attack. Boom!”
The other question, about the amount of political education happening in these branches – and whether these cadres could recite the seven cardinal pillars – was met with a drawn out: “Ehh … It’s a process,” he said, and slightly indignantly: “How long did it take the ANC members to learn the clauses of the Freedom Charter?”
In the two years since its formation, the EFF has cemented itself in the public by its spectacular show of force in rallies across the country, leading detractors such as the recently expelled Andile Mngxitama to characterise the party as “a festival of rallies aimed at building an electoral platform”.
It’s a claim EFF spokesperson Mbuyiseni Ndlozi doesn’t refute as much as supplement. “After the elections, we don’t address people in halls; we address people in stadiums when we call a rally. In the first six months of the year, that’s what we’ve been doing.”
Ndlozi says the party immediately went to work to build structures after the elections. “Now we have all provinces that have elected leadership from the provincial command teams, the regions and subregions. And branches,” he said.
Some of these electoral processes were chaotic and marred by allegations of the existence of ghost branches. Ndlozi maintains that, by February this year, all regional political education people were trained.
EFF spokesperson Mbuyiseni Ndlozi. (Nicholas Pfosi)
Explaining the programme, Ndlozi said it was contained in an organisational kit “that has the constitution, the founding manifesto and the elections manifesto. Then you’ve got the three ideological founding fathers: Fanon, Marx and Lenin. And we’ve got organisational development; how to organise and how to mobilise.”
An expelled EFF member speaking on condition of anonymity said the party needed political training “like a deer needed water” because it resembled a cult centred on the worshipping of a “hero”. The expelled member said many of the branches that Ndlozi and Gardee were talking about failed to make a quorum so it was a puzzle what political business was going on in them.
“The EFF was voted for by the angry middle classes, that’s why there are no strong branches. Even Marikana, where the party claims a strong base, is contested – there is the strong presence of the United Democratic Movement there.”
Started in Soweto
Countering the view that the second-anniversary launch signalled a symbolic move from the Marikana moment – the party’s key symbol – Ndlozi said: “You must remember we started in Soweto. Someone could make the same argument and say: ‘Why not go back to Soweto?’ The first anniversary was celebrated in Soweto. After launching at the koppie, we are back in the main town in Rustenburg. What is the significance of Rustenburg? We were second [there] in the general election of 2014. We are the official opposition in the North West. This is the centre. We’re pulling everybody in.”
Over the past few days, the EFF has been to Marikana West, Kroondal and Rustenburg’s Extension 14, all mining areas, Ndlozi said.
He characterised the departure of three MPs who had spearheaded the Save the Soul of the EFF campaign after accusing party leadership of financial mismanagement as “a test” that the party had passed.
“Where is [Khanyisile] Litchfield-Tshabalala? Is there expropriation without compensation where she is? They said we departed from the seven cardinal pillars,” he said. “You can’t tell me United Democratic Movement is pursuing the seven cardinal pillars. It was about positions that they sought and they couldn’t get massive support from within the organisation.”
The EFF rally takes place on July?25.