EFF won’t prey on vexed voters

EFF secretary general Godrich Gardee says his party is focusing on first-time voters and those with no political party affiliation. (Paul Botes/M&G)

EFF secretary general Godrich Gardee says his party is focusing on first-time voters and those with no political party affiliation. (Paul Botes/M&G)

The Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) says it won’t “scavenge” for the votes of disgruntled ANC and Democratic Alliance members heading up to next year’s elections but instead would target registered voters who stay away from the polls.

In the 2014 national elections, of the more than 25-million people who registered to vote, only 18.5-million cast their vote, according to the Independent Electoral Commission. This meant that more than six million people did not vote.

EFF secretary general Godrich Gardee said the party would focus on this group — people who have never voted before and those who do vote but have never been members of a political party.

“Let the DA [members] keep on eating each other as is happening in the ANC. We have got a specific segment as the EFF, which we must concentrate on.
The EFF must look for the missing voters,” he said.

“What we have picked up is that most of the EFF’s paid-up members and voters are people who never voted in their lifetimes before. They never believed in politics before. EFF has attracted those citizens who actually never believed in voting or belonging to political parties.”

Despite the difficulties facing the ANC and the DA, which are predicted to have a negative electoral effect on both parties next year, the EFF believes it has little to gain from unhappy supporters of these parties.

“We can’t be scavengers and hyenas looking for carcass bodies. It would be opportunistic of us,” Gardee said. “And most such people from other political parties are inherently disruptive. They usually think they come from one organisation to the EFF, horizontally, with their own position.

“The DA has got a loyal voter base. You can’t touch it. It would be futile to even attempt that. The ANC is a brand among the older generation because they have lived apartheid.”

The niche the EFF is targeting includes young and first-time voters, specifically in the 18- to 29-year-old bracket, which accounts for 21% of the 26-million voters currently registered for next year’s elections.

This year marks the EFF’s fifth anniversary, following the expulsion of its leaders Julius Malema and Floyd Shivambu from the ANC.

Predictions about the party’s chances of success are gloomy but Gardee said the EFF had continued to grow and now had a footprint in 81% of the country’s 4 329 IEC-listed wards.

The party attributes its growth to its bottom-up approach to leadership, which Gardee said ensured the EFF remained rooted in the issues of citizens.

“I received a DM [direct message] from a kid in Tembisa. She says to me for five weeks we don’t have a physical science teacher. I sent it to [Gauteng education MEC] Panyaza [Lesufi] and [the] Gauteng department of education social media platform. Within an hour senior ANC people responded,” he said.

“The following day the kid sent me a DM saying, ‘The teachers are here, Mr Gardee.’ ”

The EFF prides itself on its role as a thought leader on issues of policy, having put pressure on the ANC to vote in favour of the expropriation of land without compensation and free higher education.

But, without a position in government, the EFF runs the risk of other parties, such as the ANC, usurping its role. The ruling party can now boast about being pro-poor and pro-black because of its stance on free education and land expropriation.

But Gardee said this was not a concern for the EFF, because the beneficiaries of these policies, including in metros where it had given its vote to the DA, knew that the Red Berets had started the momentum.

“The recipients of the services being delivered where [the] EFF has an impact know where the services came from. [DA leader] Mmusi Maimane can go cut the ribbons and [so can Johannesburg mayor] Herman Mashaba. But the people know,” he said.

Gardee said, although the EFF was going into the 2019 elections with the intention of securing an outright victory, it was in no hurry to govern and was happy to forego coalition talks.

He said any co-operative agreement with either the DA or the ANC would be formed on its own terms. “Anyone who agrees with our conditions, no problem. We can even say, ‘Govern, you’ve got our support; nobody is going to remove you from government. We are here.’ ”

In the 2014 national elections, the EFF received 6.35% of the votes, giving it 25 seats in the National Assembly. In the 2016 municipal elections, it grew its support to 8.19%.

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