Is the EFF the product of the logical conclusion of the ANCYL?



Writing in 1948, exactly 28 years before the 1976 June 16 uprising, Isaac Bangani Tabata made a telling observation on the existence of the youth wing of the oldest liberation movement (the African National Congress), an observation that arguably found absolute manifestation on the eve of the ANC’s 102nd year of existence, through the formation of the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF), ironically, by the former ANCYL’s national leadership and its constituency. Unbeknown to many and perhaps then dismissed as some form of sensationalism from Tabata, informed by his own cynicism; Tabata said in his letter to Nelson Mandela (the recently departed statesman of the Republic of South Africa), that “Politically, it [Youth League] does not belong to the Congress. It is one of those peculiar anomalies which arise in a political situation where there is lack of crystal clarity in political thinking. If the Youth League followed its political principles to their logical conclusion, it would land itself outside the fold of Congress.” This he justified further by saying: “In fact, the African National Congress is rooted, in the past, whereas the Youth League is the product of modem conditions with a modern outlook. That is the essential difference between them.” For Tabata, it was not a case of the two simply having different approaches, in fact it was precisely because of the political reality and interests the two organisations served objectively. After all, Tabata had argued that the formation of the ANC had only been progressive insofar as keeping up with the times only and given the make-up of the political situation at the time [breaking up with the tribalist outlook the resistance and struggle for liberation had taken so far] than actually with its objective to transform the political and material existence of the African people, something crystallized in the Youth League’s 1949 Programme of Action.

For years now, different leaders of the YL have objected to Tabata’s assertions, citing his lack of comprehensive understanding that the YL was and is the product of the ANC and serves as a “brain station” of the latter, not its political foe or equal. They base their argument on the fact that it was the ANC that took the resolution and indeed the step to form the YL, not the other way round. Of course forgetting that Tabata had earlier argued that what defines an organization’s the raison d’etre is not what “the members say or think about an organisation that matters. It is not even a question of the good intentions of the leaders. What is of paramount importance is the programme and principles of the organisations. It is not the subjective good-will of the leaders that matters, but the objective functions of the organisation, what effect it has on society.” And these basic facts premised his argument. For him of course, these facts proved that YL and ANC were not of the same kinship.

It is then with the above that one is compelled to argue the case that the expulsion of the ANCYL leadership elected in 2011 at its 24 National Conference and the subsequent disintegration of its structures, was as a result of the “Youth League following its political principles to their logical conclusion, therefore landing itself outside the fold of Congress.” Since its unbanning and release of some of its leaders from Robben Island, the ANC has sought of backtracked on its initial stance that:

  • The national wealth of our country, the heritage of South Africans, shall be restored to the people;
  • The mineral wealth beneath the soil, the Banks and monopoly industry shall be transferred to the ownership of the people as a whole;
  • All other industry and trade shall be controlled to assist the wellbeing of the people;

The above, coupled with the facts that South Africa has the third highest unemployment rate in the world for people between the ages of 15 to 24, an overwhelming 50% of that age group, according to the World Economic Forum (WEF) Global Risk report. This is in addition to about 4.5 million young people in the same age group, that  are neither in any form of schooling and/or education and training.” Required the ANCYL in 2011 to resolve that:

o   To reaffirm the ANC Youth League 1st National General Council resolution on nationalisation of mines, this should be appended to the consolidated resolutions as a Congress resolution.

o   To adopt the economic transformation perspective as encapsulated in the discussion document “A clarion call to Economic Freedom Fighters: Programme of Action for Economic Freedom in our Lifetime”, as an official programme of the ANC Youth League until all the identified objectives are attained.

This is in contrast to the ANC’s 53rd National Conference Resolutions:

  •  Transform the structure of the economy through industrialisation, broad-based black economic empowerment, strengthening and expanding the role of the state and the role of state owned enterprises.
  • Accelerating shared economic growth by overcoming obstacles to growth and intervening to promote equity.
  • Macroeconomic policies that support growth, job creation and poverty eradication on a sustainable basis.
  • The national infrastructure plan, which is an opportunity to change the structure of the economy.
  • State intervention with a focus on beneficiation for industrialisation is urgently required. Instruments are required to support beneficiation and competitive pricing of these strategic resources include the use of targeted management of exports of minerals. In addition, SA’s share of some resources offers possible producer power which could be used to facilitate backward and forward mineral economic linkages.
  • At the forefront of state intervention should be the strengthening of the state mining company which will capture a share of mineral resource rents and equity.
  • The state must capture an equitable share of mineral resource rents through the tax system and deploy them in the interests of long-term economic growth, development and transformation.
  • The New Growth Path is the economic strategy designed to shift the trajectory of economic development, including through identified drivers of job creation.

It can be argued by those within ANC that this is a skewed and very selective reading of the YL’s position; and also by those outside it, especially those in PAC and to a certain extent, AZAPO, that the economic transformation of the ANCYL (and now EFF) is neither socialist nor has a socialist intent, instead it is just a ploy for state capitalism that will perpetuate the same crimes perpetuated first by colonialism and apartheid and now by the ANC-led government through its protection of white monopoly capital and non-disturbance of the economic production make-up of the country. They argue that, nationalization as Frantz Fanon had noted over a half-century ago; “does not mean placing the whole economy at the service of the nation and deciding to satisfy the needs of the nation. For them, nationalization does not mean governing the state with regard to the new social relations whose growth it has been decided to encourage.” That to the YL (now EFF), “nationalization quite simply means the transfer into native hands of those unfair advantages which are a legacy of the colonial period.” More recently, NUMSA lamented at EFF’s nationalization as not being “workerist”, meaning not nationalization under workers’ control.  

However, to not digress fundamentally from the premise of the article, the argument is not necessarily on the socialist intent or inherent make-up of the EFF, but to qualify Tabata’s assertion that the YL not politically belonging to the ANC, thus the formation of the EFF. The claim is affirmed by the EFF’s cardinal pillars which state that:

v  Expropriation of South Africa’s land without compensation for equal redistribution in use.

v   Nationalisation of mines, banks, and other strategic sectors of the economy, without compensation.

v  The benefits of nationalising strategic sectors of the economy will include, but not be limited to, the following realities:

a. An increased fiscus for, and therefore more resources for, education, housing, healthcare, infrastructure development, safety and security and sustainable livelihoods for our people.

b. More jobs for our people because state-owned and controlled mines will increase the local beneficiation and industrialisation of mineral resources. This will, in turn, reduce the high levels of poverty consequent of joblessness.

c. More equitable spatial development because state-owned and controlled mines will invest in areas where mining is happening.

d. Better salaries and working conditions in mines because state-owned mines will increase the mining wage and improve compliance with occupational health and safety standards.

e. Greater levels of economic and political sovereignty, as the state will be in control and ownership of strategic sectors of the economy, which produce mineral resources needed around the world.

Something the ANCYL had already advocated for towards it 24th National Congress:

  •       Nationalisation to increase the State’s fiscal capacity and better the working conditions,
  •        Nationalisation as a basis for industrialisation,
  •       Nationalisation as a means to safeguard sovereignty,
  •       Nationalisation as a basis to transform accumulation path in the South African economy, and
  •       Nationalisation to transform South Africa’s unequal spatial development patterns.
  •       State Mining Company to:

■Own and control South Africa’s mineral resources;

■Maximise the nation’s economic gain from the mineral resources;

■Contribute to South Africa’s social and economic development

It is with the aforementioned facts that one may conclude that the formation of the EFF is by far and large, the result of the ANCYL following its political principles to their logical conclusion, therefore landing itself outside the fold of Congress.

EFF decimates the political discourse of SA!!!

“Fascism is to take a worn-out example, is not an external opposite to democracy but has its roots in liberal democracy’s own inner antagonisms.”-Slavoj Zizek

The Economic Freedom Fighter’s (EFF) formation has drawn both envy and admiration within the SA political discourse, and this is due to its founders, its policies and what its standing means for the traditional political formations in the country. We all know how its formation came about but i shall not discuss that here, except deal specifically with the ideological and political questions surounding the EFF. Questions i hope, will assist us not only in measuring the EFF’s potential but changing the entire SA political discourse. At the heart of EFF’s existence, is its 7 non-negotiable pillars, which are themed on what they term Sankarist politics; and its rallying cry is the insistence of the current generation to curve its own destiny, Fanonian-style.

For some of the traditional political formations, the likes of the Pan Africanist Congress of Azania (PAC), Azanian People’s Organization (AZAPO) and Socialist Party of Azania (SOPA) which are largely regarded as the political left of the SA discourse, EFF presents a serious challenge in terms of “appropriating” their politics (whether for better or worse) and this does not only threaten their existences but their relevance as well. While many within the said formations insist that EFF is neither socialist nor leftist, but just  a slightly noisy and militant ANC by-product, some see it as having great potential in upping the intensity of the political langauage of the SA politics of the left, and at the same time making them relevant to ordinary masses of the country. On the flipside of the coin, is the more liberal and conservative right side of the political space in SA, the ruling African National Congress (ANC), the Democratic Alliance (DA) and the Freedom Front Plus (FF+), whom, by their standing alone, are direct foes of what the EFF purports to stand for. Well, the ANC, due to its adherence to the Freedom Charter, its relations with the South African Communist Party (SACP) and the Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU), can claim to have leftist leanings, which should dispel the notion that they are on the right side of the SA political discourse. However, what remains visible is the ANC economic policies since it came into power and its consistency in that regard, hence it is largely considered to be anything but leftist.

Ideologically, the tradional leftist organizations consider EFF limited in its articulation and comprehension of radical leftist politics, they argue that despite its “rhetoric”, it borders on the same Freedom Charter aspirations of the ANC. That, its objectives are still centred around the false premise that SA belongs to all those who live in it, not just the indigenous people of SA. On the other hand, the right side of the frame argue that EFF is nothing but an extremist racial group that stands to hamper the gains that the “democracy” has achieved. In between the two-sides of the frame, there are emerging voices which place EFF as SA’s potential, much-loathed ZANU-PF, accusing it as fickle nationalism, that actually serves to benefit, just a handful of the black elites in the country, under the guise of nationalization. Interesting enough, much of the comments come as a result as the leadership of the EFF, not neccesarily, its policies or ideological standpoint; for instance, due to his political views, the EFF, self-styled, Commander-in-Chief, Julius Malema, is largely considered a demagogue and has been compared to a Hitler and a Mugabe, whom, the liberal voices in the country, feel, has modelled sophistry around the plight of the impoverished masses of the people, while he has amassed wealth for himself, during his days as the President of the ANCYL. They argue that, the current socio-economc conditions of the country, almost mirror the same ones that propelled Hitler and the Nazis into power in Germany, therefore the end product is mostly likely to be the same; while the leftist voices argue that the EFF will fall in the same pitfalls many, natioanlist movement all over the world, but specifically, in Africa, have fallen into; the insistence to nationalize the economny and trading sectors, not to place the whole economy at the service of the whole nation and satisfy the needs of the nation, not to govern the state with regard to the new social relations has been decided to encourage but the transfer to the native hands, the unfair advantages apartheid created and 20-year-ANC rule has maintained and perpetuated. And the above cahrges are levelled solely on the leadership make-up of the EFF.

To then, get to the gist of my article, i wish to point out that, given how EFF came into be, a central command team without an eletive congress, founding manifesto without proper organizational make-up and the fact that there is no visible accountability mechanism to oversee the operation of the the entire organization; indeed the EFF does have potential to be just another grotesque version of what it purports to be, like Zizek said “Because the horror of Communism, Stalinism, is not that bad people do bad things — they always do. It’s that good people do horrible things thinking they are doing something great.” However, the charges against EFF from both sections of the left and right frame of SA politics are not as noble as they seem, infact they reflect exactly their ideological commitments with regard to the SA political status quo. Both sides, are actually merely protecting their territories and standing, which the EFF seems to have appropriated. Both refuse to acknowledge that the EFF emergence has come as a result of their own failures, the left’s inability to attract and mobilize the impoverished masses of the people and the right’s further marginalization and drift away from the masses. The SA political discourse has always been dominated by comfortable politics, the lamentation of the corruption within the government and how the government fails to consistently apply the Constitution, which by the way, sustains the apartheid legacy of inequality and ill-gotten wealth.  One of the EFF’s leading figures, Andile Mngxitama once argued that the EFF decimates the left, and here i argue that it actually decimates the entire political discourse of SA, for better or worse. It is a direct product of failed political discourse in an apparent democracy, whether it goes on to be just another form of Stalinism or in fact, the first ever political movement to be thoroughly Sankarist.

As it stands, the only real worry with the EFF is its organizational capacity, the ability to organizationally overcome possible and imminent power struggles post the national elections next year; it goes without saying that, despite its attractive nature to ordinary folks, it remains susceptible to the “stalinist” takeover same way many historical liberation movements have been taken over. Truth is, every organization is bound to be plagued by internal power struggles and its eventual destiny is always shaped by the faction that emerges victorius within the organization and EFF is not different; therefore observations on it should be be solely on the potential it holds and option it gives the disenfranchised people of SA. The insistence to single out Julius Malema, actually exposes the shallowness of the political formations within the political discourse.

Afterall is said and done, EFF is a product on the prevailing conditions in the country, therefore exists through its mantra, better expressed by Frantz Fanon “Each generation, must out of relative obscurity, find its mission, fulfill it or betray it.” and find it they have, what’s left is fulfilling or betraying it.