‘EFF, pay back the money!’

Waiting to be paid: Sabelo Mhlungu was axed as EFF student affairs officer. (Oupa Nkosi, M&G)

Waiting to be paid: Sabelo Mhlungu was axed as EFF student affairs officer. (Oupa Nkosi, M&G)

The Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) has carefully positioned itself as the representative of the working class in Parliament – and the loudest voice calling for President Jacob Zuma to “pay back the money” spent on his Nkandla home.

But the party may face an embarrassing year, when its own former workers plan to air their complaints that the EFF itself has failed to pay what it owes. There are also allegations that the party continues to ­victimise those who were on the wrong side of a factional battle.

Several former EFF employees say they will turn to the Labour Court in the new year to demand the settlements awarded them by the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration (CCMA), and they will not hold back when explaining what they think of their former party.

Employees filed a total of 24 complaints with the CCMA, first reported by City Press in June, claiming wrongful termination. Some of the matters have yet to be resolved, but four of the former workers were awarded compensation ranging between R25 000 and R70 000.
But the party won’t pay, they say.

The axed EFF student affairs officer, Sabelo Mhlungu, described the party’s leader, Julius Malema, and his deputy, Floyd Shivambu, as “bullies and hypocrites of note”, who are quick to tell Zuma to “pay back the money” but fail to do so themselves.

A former EFF Western Cape provincial co-ordinator and office administrator, Lephallo Mohoto, who now heads a forum formed by the group of dismissed employees, said sheriffs in various parts of the country were still trying to attach party goods, but that too has been unsuccessful.

Mohoto, who was awarded a settlement of R30 000, said the firings were politically motivated and staff purges were confined to those who had supported former EFF MPs Andile Mngxitama, Mpho Ramakatsa, Khanyisile Litchfield-Tshabalala and Lucky Twala in their questioning of Malema’s and Shivambu’s leadership practices. All the former workers the Mail & Guardian spoke to echoed the same reason given by Mohoto for being fired.

The group intends to consolidate its cases, which are spread throughout the country, and take the EFF to the Labour Court, a move they see as a last-ditch attempt to get the party to pay them their money.

Mhlungu, who was based at the party’s national headquarters in Johannesburg, and Alima Thole, a former administrative secretary in the Free State, were awarded R70 000, the highest amounts so far.

Mhlungu, who had a post at Unisa, described being head-hunted by Malema, on the strength of a good working relationship that the two shared during Malema’s tenure as leader of the ANC Youth League. He said his support for the Ramakatsa faction led to tensions between him and Malema, resulting in him being sacked.

Mhlungu terminated his EFF membership last month and has since rejoined the ANC. He said the country would never be safe under an EFF-led government headed by Malema because the party’s leaders weren’t democratic and quick to blackball those with opposing views.

“I tried to remain as an ordinary [EFF] member even after my dismissal but could no longer justify it. My former [EFF] comrades have been forced to disown me for the sake of their positions. I still believe in the basic principles of the EFF but can no longer support them because I know first-hand that their reality differs from what they preach,” he said.

Thole said the EFF’s failure to pay them as mandated proved it had no regard for the law and its procedures.

She is struggling to survive after losing her job and urgently needs the money.

Celi Nkambule, who says she is entitled to a payment of R25?000 from the EFF, was relieved of her duties as a party field worker in Mpumalanga. She quit her job at the department of environmental affairs to work for the party but is now jobless and under immense financial strain.

“If you know [of] anyone who wants to join the EFF, advise them not to. They are the worst political party in South Africa. I know this organisation personally – no one can tell me about it. I have contributed a lot for nothing and it’s very painful,” she said.

The CCMA says it is difficult to compute the EFF’s exact liability because interest on compensation accumulates from the date of the decision. Where employers fail to honour awards or settlements, the former employees can approach the CCMA, or the Labour Court, for a writ of execution.

Several attempts to get comment from the EFF were unsuccessful. The party spokesperson, Mbuyiseni Ndlozi, did not respond to emailed questions, despite also being contacted telephonically several times. Malema’s phone rang unanswered on three different occasions and he did not respond to two SMS requests for response. Shivambu refused to respond, saying: “Speak to the spokesperson … you must call him until you find him.”

Rebels move on to new battlegrounds

The build-up to the Economic Freedom Fighter’s first national elective conference in Mangaung in December 2014 saw a bitter battle between factions that emerged in the EFF after a group of parliamentary representatives publicly revolted against the leadership of their commander in chief, Julius Malema, and his deputy, Floyd Shivambu. 

Former EFF MP Andile Mngxitama was regarded as the leader of a rogue group that including Mpho Ramakatsa, Khanyisile Litchfield-Tshabalala and Lucky Twala. The group was considered responsible for launching the Save the Soul of the EFF campaign, after claiming that Malema and Shivambu were covering up corruption and dipping into party coffers for their personal gain. 

The rebels also expressed their dismay at the party abandoning its initial resolve to refuse the perks that come with assuming seats in Parliament, such as medical aid. Malema’s faction has consistently denied these allegations, claiming the Mngxitama group was bitter and vengeful following their losses in Mangaung. 

The rebel group still hopes the high court in Johannesburg will nullify the conference election results, but the matter has yet to be heard. After the Malema faction emerged victorious at the conference, Mngxitama, Ramakatsa and Litchfield-Tshabalala were suspended and later expelled from the EFF. 

Twala received a three-year suspension from the party pending a public apology, but he refused to make it. Mngxitama has formed his own political movement, Black First Land First, and Ramakatsa has spearheaded the Save the Soul of Africa organisation.

Litchfield-Tshabalala joined the United Democratic Front (UDM) and was appointed its national organiser before pipping UDM chief whip Nqabayomzi Kwankwa to the post of deputy leader at the party’s recent elective congress in Bloemfontein.

Nelly Shamase

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