EFF volunteer: "It is not just about the leader"
Campaigning is a dangerous job, even for the most seasoned fighters. Take the Economic Freedom Fighters’ foot soldiers, who are never far from some element of chaos.
But oddly enough, father of two Dennis Mkhabela remains reserved and calm as the other EFF campaigners run towards the scene of a fight. The 40-year-old calmly continues to tell Patricia Mpama, a Malvern resident, how to “make the change” by registering to vote for the EFF.
His tweed red hat - the EFF emblem emblazoned on it - coordinates perfectly with his T-shirt, which broadcasts one of the catchy party slogans: “Last hope for jobs and service delivery”.
Mpama voices her concerns with Mkhabela; she wants a job, a proper home - she shares a house with over a dozen other people - and better service delivery.
“We will deliver these things for you. We need to know your concerns and you need to vote as well, otherwise no change will come,” Mkhabela replies.
But Mpama isn’t sold on the EFF rhetoric. “All of you are the same, promising us whatever we want, then turn around when you have the votes and forget about us,” she says, as two little girls bound out of the house chanting “EFF”.
Meanwhile other EFF fighters are trying to stop a fight brewing on the other end of the street; a tipsy Inkatha Freedom Party member has not taken kindly to the fighters singing and dancing into his yard as they campaign.
Rocks are flung from both camps - and expletives shouted - but after a while calm is restored and the fighters take their campaign elsewhere.
Earlier in the day Mkhabela and his fellow fighters danced and sang outside the Malvern Super Spar, while a few Malvern residents looked on unimpressed and people hooted at them to move. The lyrics to their catchy songs included how there would be war in Parliament, Zuma loving “iwewe” and the EFF winning the ward.
Undeterred, Mkhabela’s team proceeded to campaign at the buzzing Play Bet gambling house, where most of the patrons much friendlier, as they waited in line to place their bets. Many flocked to the red berets to find out how to join the party.
“You see when I wear this red shirt I walk proudly. I know people will come up to me and ask about the party and how they can get involved, and every other day I am always carrying membership forms because people want to join,” explains Mkhabela.
But others simply turned their backs on him as he tried to woo them. “I want nothing to do with Julius [Malema] or voting. Please leave me alone,” said one resident.
“Because of the ruling party people don’t even want to go and register to vote. They think that even our party won’t do the right things. But I am a volunteer for the EFF so I can tell people that this is the party to bring them a better future,” says Mkhabela.
Mkhabela and his team have to convince the likes of Nolwando, who has three young children, is unemployed and lives in a shack, sharing their yard with fifteen others.
“We have no water or electricity in this yard. I came to Joburg in 2013 looking for work and the DA was an alternative until they started eating the money that was meant to create jobs. They are useless. I need to get out of this slum,” she said.
But despite her dire living conditions, she still doesn’t believe that the EFF will bring about economic freedom.
Mkhabela on the other hand, who was retrenched from his job as a security guard three months ago, does believe in the party’s promises of economic freedom.
“It is not only about the leader, [Malema], but also about the policies the party is coming with. I want my children to have land, create their own wealth and have a place to call home. I believe we can get it through the EFF.”
Malvern resident Bonga Twala, who together with his family are fervent EFF supporters, echoes his sentiment.
“I know the EFF will bring something different, something we have never seen in this country before, whether Julius is there or not. I have hope in this party - and don’t worry my man, my vote is going to the EFF,” he reassures Mkhabela.
A smile spreads on Mkhabela’s face. He tells of how his son, Blessing, wears his beret and pumps his fist in the air, shouting “EFF”.
“My son can see that I am passionate about this party and he can see it has a future. We went to Orlando stadium together as he’s a full member and he loved it. I need to teach him about being a fighter at this young age so he can be the next generation EFF fighter.”