EFF dramatics are Theatre of the Absurd




The nation is agog at the video of the Economic Freedom Fighters MP Marshall Dlamini slapping a white security guard. EFF communicator-in-chief (to give him the Trumpian epithet) Julius Malema is also reported to have shoved a woman guard around. Why? Well, says the EFF, there was an assassination plot targeting Malema and, as he and Dlamini wandered the parliamentary precinct, they saw the white security guard as part of the plot.
So Dlamini slapped him. That’ll halt an assassination every time.

Obviously all white people, but especially men, are implicated in the plot. And, obviously,Juju is seeing himself as HF Verwoerd, who was assassinated in Parliament, though he was sitting down at the time.

It seems the EFF has now dumped its commitment to Marxist-Leninist-Falanagist-Flopperist political ideals and moved into a new realm: the Theatre of the Absurd.

After exhaustive political analysis, leading analysts are convinced that, after the huge success of the EFF’s earlier theatrical interventions (being thrown out of Parliament during then-president Jacob Zuma’s State of the Nation addresses), has led the party of little red trolls to draw on various famous scripts of the Theatre of the Absurd, not to mention Antonin Artaud’s Theatre of Cruelty, to drive its political manoeuvres. Here are the key works.

We start with Waiting for Godot by Samuel Beckett, but it’s only a starting point. After all, this play, about two Irish tramps going nowhere, has a vital lineage going back to Lenin, who stole the title of his 1901 polemic What Is to Be Done? from another Russian writer, Nicolai Cherneyshevsky, who published a novel of that title in 1863. Beckett’s version is blunt: “Nothing to be done.” It’s significant that one of Beckett’s tramps is named Vladimir. The other is Estragon, which is French for tarragon, so something herbal is involved. “Let’s go,” says Vladimir to Estragon (or it may be the other way around). Stage direction: They do not move.

Then there’s Rhinoceros by Eugene Ionesco. It’s surely a favoured text of EFF deputy chief paranoiac Floyd Shivambu, who is in charge of producing conspiracy theories for the party. In Ionesco’s play, everyone is being transformed, one by one, into rhinoceroses. Only one man, finally, is left to rail against the absurdities of the universe. That would be Floyd. And that would be transformation in EFF terms: we all become rhinos.

Perhaps the most salient forebear of the EFF’s theatrical fantasies is Peter Weiss’s play The Persecution and Assassination of Jean-Paul Marat as Performed by the Inmates of the Asylum of Charenton under the Direction of the Marquis de Sade, usually shortened to Marat/Sade to save typing time. Here we have Marat, great leader of the French Revolution, who was murdered in his bathtub. The scenario is replayed, with meta-commentary and much shrieking, by the inmates. It’s confusing, though: if Juju is Marat, and the Charenton asylum represents South Africa, with President Cyril Ramaphosa as its Napoleonic director, who is the Marquis de Sade?

You’d have to ask Floyd.

Shaun de Waal

Shaun de Waal

Shaun de Waal has worked at the Mail & Guardian since 1989. He was literary editor from 1991 to 2006 and chief film critic for 15 years. He is now editor-at-large. Recent publications include Exposure: Queer Fiction, 25 Years of the Mail & Guardian and Not the Movie of the Week. Read more from Shaun de Waal

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