North West EFF flexes its muscles

Innocent: EFF North West secretary Papiki Babuile says his prosecution was politically motivated. Photo: Lucky Nxumalo/Gallo Images/City Press

Innocent: EFF North West secretary Papiki Babuile says his prosecution was politically motivated. Photo: Lucky Nxumalo/Gallo Images/City Press

The Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) are eyeing the North West, hoping to exploit the ANC’s weaknesses in the province to topple it from power in next year’s general elections.

“The ANC has been dropping its votes consistently. And currently, it is not stable in the province and is unable to address its internal contradictions,” said the party’s North West secretary, Keobakile “Papiki” Babuile, this week.

“There is no organisation in the North West called the ANC. All that exists is factions.
One faction called the ‘thuma mina’ group [aligned to President Cyril Ramaphosa] and the other called the ‘setsokotsane’ group [who support ousted ANC chairperson and former premier Supra Mahumapelo]. That will not change any time soon.”

In contrast, the EFF had doubled its numbers in by-elections “in all the wards we contested in” since 2016, said Babuile. “And in some the ANC won by a very small margin. That says to us, if we put in more effort, definitely we are going to win these elections.”

Babuile said his arrest and conviction for murder four years ago — a conviction that was later set aside on appeal — would not deter him. The former ANC Youth League provincial secretary was sentenced in 2014 in connection with the 2012 murder of David Chika, the secretary of the ANC’s Dr Kenneth Kaunda region.

He served two years of a 15-year sentence before being acquitted on all charges. He claims the prosecution was politically motivated. Winning the North West for the EFF would be the ultimate vindication, he said.

READ MORE: EFF leader runs party affairs from his jail cell

“When I was arrested, I explained that it was a political set-up. They know who did that thing and that person is roaming the streets and addressing rallies with them,” Babuile said. “If people want to use my matter as their campaigning method, it’s not going to work for them … they must find another strategy. Because I have explained already that I am not guilty and I was acquitted.”

Those who supported Babuile have previously accused the ruling party of orchestrating a plot to stop him from rallying his large support base to vote for the EFF in the 2014 national elections.

The EFF has stood behind Babuile throughout the matter, with party leader Julius Malema insisting he was made to serve time for a crime he didn’t commit. The party affirmed its support for him last weekend, when it re-elected him to the position of provincial secretary for a second term.

After the 2014 national elections, the first in which the EFF participated, the party secured 13.21% of the votes in the North West and five seats in the provincial legislature. When it first took part in local government elections in 2016, the EFF secured 15.5% support in the North West.

The ANC’s trajectory in the province has been downwards. Between the 2009 and 2014 national elections, it saw a 5.5% decline, and a 14.67% decrease between the 2011 and 2016 municipal elections.

The leadership of the ANC in the North West has been in turmoil since early this year when violent protests erupted, with residents calling for the axing of Mahumapelo. Opposition parties such as the EFF and the Democratic Alliance also tried to have him removed by means ofa motion of no confidence. He was eventually forced to resign by the ANC and replaced by Job Mokgoro.

Last week, Mahumapelo was dealt another blow when the ANC’s national executive committee disbanded the provincial executive committee over which he presided as chairperson.

Despite the ANC’s efforts to clean up in the province, Babuile insisted the ruling party was still deeply divided by factions and showed no real commitment to fighting corruption. He said the failure to dismiss leaders accused of corruption and aiding state capture showed Mokgoro was no different to his predecessor.

The EFF, following its provincial people’s assembly in Mahikeng last weekend, resolved to put pressure on Mokgoro to dismiss eight MECs accused of facilitating corruption and state capture in the province.

“If Mokgoro was genuine, the man was supposed to remove certain MECs there. None of them have been touched. Why? Because the man does not want to anger the master, who is Supra. He is a product of Supra,” Babuile said.

In addition to strengthening the capacity of its branches, Babuile said the EFF’s strategy would involve concentrating its campaigning in voting districts and setting clear targets for those districts.

“We want to make sure that in each and every voting station we will get no less than 200 votes. And if we get that in every station it means we have won already.”

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