The Economic Freedom Fighters’ second policy and elective conference should change the way the media views the country’s third-largest party, party spokesperson Mbuyiseni Ndlozi said on Monday.
On the fourth and last day of the conference, Ndlozi sat down with the Mail & Guardian to discuss the EFF’s relationship with the media and its communication strategy going forward, as the party works to grow its support base. He also spoke about the party’s plans to ensure its decision makers are reliable.
Ndlozi said, with the running of the “impressive conference”: “I hope the attitude of the media changes towards the EFF because of the experience here. People always think we’re hostile, or whatever. But in every event of the EFF, we give the best treatment to our guests. And we consider the media as our guests.”
“Inasmuch as I would have read your piece, which was saying a lot of rubbish yesterday, I wake up in the morning and I know you’re doing your work to be critical,” Ndlozi added.
“We can enter into the most robust debate. But we still treat you with the utmost one respect.”
The beginning of the conference was overshadowed by accusations that the EFF has tried to suppress media freedom by barring a group of news organisations — including the Daily Maverick, the amaBhungane and Scorpio investigative units — from attending.
When the organisations were not granted accreditation to cover the conference, the South African National Editors’ Forum (Sanef) released a statement accusing the EFF of infringing on “the right of freedom of expression”.
Sanef called the ban “an act of intimidation”.
“The EFF’s ban of certain publications is in effect diminishing citizen’s right to receive information to make informed decisions about politics — including their view of the EFF … The EFFs actions signal a warning to other media houses not to report critically and without fear or favour on wrongdoing,” the statement read.
In response to the banning, eNCA resolved to pull its reporters from covering the conference.
In a statement, eNCA editor-in-chief Jeremy Maggs said: “We believe that the decision by the EFF to bar organisations like amaBhungane, Scorpio and the Daily Maverick is a threat to media freedom. And we have taken a principled decision to stop covering the conference, because we think this is an attack on press freedom in this country.”
NOTE: eNCA has taken what it believes is a principled decision to stop covering this weekend’s EFF elective conference.
This after the party barred several news organizations from covering the event… 1/4
— eNCA (@eNCA) December 14, 2019
Though the EFF welcomed this move, in a statement the party said eNCA journalists accredited to cover the conference would still be allowed to attend it.
“We know that if they were consulted, these journalists would have chosen to continue covering this historic and important political event in South Africa and the African continent,” the statement read.
“However, because their boss has spoken, they have no voice.”
On Monday, Ndlozi told the M&G that he hopes “journalists realise that they are workers”.
“At some point, if you can be a journalist enough, you should be able to take a radically separate ethical position,” he said.
“So the journalists at eNCA can distance themselves and that can create an important internal debate … That’s what we really want, for there to be mechanisms of self regulation, to help the media not to be abused by people who are powerful. And who are the powerful people, the people who own the media.”
Ndlozi — who headed up the EFF’s commission on the media, under the banner “The battle of ideas” — said the party intends on taking advantage of its considerable social media footprint to speak directly to its members.
The party plans to grow its YouTube presence and to broadcast EFF events on Instagram TV.
He added that the party would also work to ensure that data costs are lowered to allow its members to access these platforms.
On Monday morning, EFF Gauteng chairperson Mandisa Mashego presented some of the resolutions made by the media commission. These included policy positions on how to diversify the telecommunications industry.
“We resolved that companies should be obliged to start sharing network infrastructure with the view of being more service-based … As things stand, the South African telecommunications industry is not sharing infrastructure as a matter of fact,” Mashego told the 4 000 delegates attending the conference.
“Philosophically, the network infrastructure must be for a common good.”
Ndlozi told the M&G that the EFF believes that: “South Africa’s monopolies work like syndicates. And they rip South Africans apart.”
Ndlozi has also been elected as part of the party’s 40- member central command team (CCT), which the EFF’s highest decision making body between policy conferences. He said that the newly elected team will use its tenure to beef up the party’s support base.
Although the party has managed to become South Africa’s third largest party within six years, winning 10% of the vote in the 2019 general elections, party leader Julius Malema instructed delegates at the conference last Friday to “collect 10-million votes” for the party come the next general elections.
The new members of the CTT were elected late Saturday night, with the party’s former secretary-general, Hlegiwe Mkhaliphi making the cut. Mkhaliphi is the only former member of the party’s top brass to be elected into the CCT. Former chairperson, Dali Mpofu, former treasurer-general Leanne Mathys, and former secretary-general Godrich Gardee all declined nomination to the CCT.
The body is the highest decision making structure in the organisation between conferences but has faced several challenges since its formation including resignations and what the organisation has described as “laziness” and “careerism.” within in ranks.
According to its organisational report, some CCT committees were not fully functional and despite being assigned to specific tasks, most commissars did not do anything related to their portfolios. Ndlozi told the M&G that CCT members also carried a heavy workload because of uneven distribution of responsibilities.
“We have been suffering from not having a large pool of people to delegate different responsibilities and then we ended up with a few people doing a lot of things, which is not good,” he said.
The party amended its constitution during the conference to increase the CCT from 35 to 40 members. Delegates elected 22 women into the 40 member CCT, surpassing the requirement to elect 50% of women into the structure. Ndlozi says this was deliberately done to ensure to that “it’s more effective in the future”.
We want one CCT member [to be responsible] for one region. The next five years should be a consolidation of the important foundational growth that we’ve laid out,” he says.
Ndlozi added: “The men and women that are there [CCT] have proven to be reliable. They are completely not self seeking.”