/ 6 October 2023

Ndlozi aims to be first EFF premier

Eff 2021 Manifesto Launch At Gandhi Square In South Africa
In the hot seat: Economic Freedom Fighters MP Mbuyiseni Ndlozi has been endorsed as the party’s candidate for premier of Gauteng. Photo: Laird Forbes/Getty Images

Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) Gauteng chair Nkululeko Dunga has endorsed party MP Mbuyiseni Ndlozi as its candidate for premier of the province. 

Leaders in Gauteng are facing mounting pressure to secure the top position for Ndlozi, who has allegedly got the nod from party leader Julius Malema

In July, Malema sparked debate about Ndlozi, touting him as a suitable contender to go up against the governing ANC’s incumbent Panyaza Lesufi and the Democratic Alliance’s (DA) Solly Msimanga, who was announced as the blue party’s premier candidate.

“You want to be anything Doctor Ndlozi, I don’t know, prepare to be premier in Gauteng. Not anything less than that,” Malema said at the time.

Speaking to the Mail & Guardian this week, Dunga said having Ndlozi announced as the candidate for premier would help create a successful election campaign in the province.

“Commissar Ndlozi is a seasoned leader; he is not only a politician but also an activist of the Economic Freedom Fighters. 

“He resonates well with everyone across all spheres,” he said, adding that Ndlozi would have appeal across all the demographics of the party’s support base and had the ability to rally voters to turn out in their numbers for next year’s elections.

To confirm its support for Ndlozi, the EFF has deployed him to Gauteng as its election head. Some in the party have said it was a good opportunity for Ndlozi to acquaint himself with the inner workings of the provincial government.

The party has sent Ndlozi to provinces several times before to help them rebuild the leadership after a dip in support at elections.

Ndlozi has been an MP since 2014, having initially served as the EFF’s spokesperson. He is also the head of the party’s political education efforts.

Last year, he was sent to Limpopo to lead the rebuilding of the provincial structure after it was disbanded for failing to garner enough support during 2021 municipal elections.

During the 2019 elections in Gauteng, the three parties with the largest support were the ANC, the DA and the EFF. 

The margin between the ANC and DA was substantial, with the former securing 50.19% of the vote, while the official opposition managed to garner only 27.45%. 

The DA is anticipating that the ANC’s support will slide beneath 50% in Gauteng, giving the official opposition an opportunity to take over the province. 

However, recent entrants in Gauteng, including ActionSA and community-based organisations, could stand in the way of attempts by the three largest parties to get an outright majority in the province.

Dunga told the M&G this week that the EFF had converted its provincial executive to a task team to focus on visibility and embark on a voter registration campaign.

The EFF was working hard to remove the ANC from power and was confident of its prospects of being a kingmaker in Gauteng which would enable the party to take the premier position.

“We enter every election with a mindset of victory, as you would have heard us previously chanting that 2024 is going to be our 1994. We are going to do as the government did to the National Party in 1994, which is to overthrow that government and assume the premier position in the province,” he said.

Dunga added that the EFF was consulting with professionals about drafting the red berets’ election manifesto for next year.

“We are informed by the fact that we are prepared to take over the government and really do everything possible [to] change the living conditions of the people of South Africa,” he said. 

A task force member, who was previously a regional leader in Tshwane, and who did not want to be named, said the team had been instructed to ensure they paved the way for Ndlozi.

“The ball is rolling now. Commissar Ndlozi’s charisma will help us get the votes we need. We are prepared to work hard with commissar Leigh-Anne [Mathys] and commissar  Ndlozi,” the member said.

A senior EFF leader in Gauteng, who also declined to be named, said the mission in Johannesburg was to maintain relations with other smaller parties to ensure their agenda in the city council was fulfilled. 

“Despite a disconnect in the mayoral council committee, we have to keep holding on to show our supporters that we are capable of leading [at provincial level],” they said.

“We have been disrespected by Lesufi, which is why we believe it’s time for a new EFF premier who understands how to deal with people and believes in the capabilities of the provincial government.”

The senior leader was echoing the sentiments of mayoral committee member for safety Mgcini Tshwaku after an explosion in downtown Johannesburg in July. Tshwaku accused Lesufi of hogging the limelight to score political points by addressing victims of the blast before the mayoral council had done so.

“Premier Lesufi is going to create a wall [between the province and the city] … it undermines the leadership of the city and it’s a serious issue,” Tshwaku said.

Gauteng is expected to be the biggest battlefield for the ANC, DA and the EFF. 

Smaller parties, such as ActionSA, have joined the DA in a pact to unseat the ANC and try to ensure the EFF does not get into government.

Political analyst Zakhele Ndlovu said the Gauteng and KwaZulu-Natal provinces would see stiff competition for the position of premier which, in turn, would unseat Lesufi.

Ndlovu neither province was likely to see an outright winner and this would provide an opportunity for smaller parties to rule through coalitions.

Ndlozi’s prospects might be diminished because of the EFF’s limited governing experience, he added.

“The EFF has to first prove that it is capable of governing. What we have seen up to this point is that it is visible but it has not demonstrated that it can actually govern at a municipality, provincial or national level,” Ndlovu said.

Another political analyst, Dr Ongama Mtimka, believes Ndlozi’s popularity amongst young voters bodes well for the EFF.

“Although Ndlozi does not have government experience, he has a chance of winning because of the brand he has built for himself.”

The EFF saw its members assume positions in local government when the party went into coalitions with the ANC across Gauteng metros.

Should the party struggle to get an outright win for the premier position, Dunga said, it would consider a coalition with parties aligned with its policies on land and service delivery.