Prof. JJ Tabane sat down with EFF leader Julius Malema to dissect his political party’s first 10 years of existence
What are one or two big highlights that you feel have characterised the success of the EFF over the past 10 years? In addition, where do you feel you could’ve done better?
It has been a difficult journey because when we started we were canvassing new grounds. We had never formed political parties, we had joined them previously and not actively formed one before. We had no resources and no experienced men and women in the form of former ministers, MECs, and mayors.
We had come together as people who had interest in the struggle for economic freedom. We came together and formed the EFF without attracting high profile people. We had to build an organisation with ordinary, innocent people, which was great because we didn’t have a problem with egotism when we were building from the ground up. We listened to and persuaded each other. A lot of ideas from different schools of thoughts came together in forming this leftist organisation.
Emphasis was made on leadership in the founding documents of the EFF; democratic centralism and discipline. Those elements helped us to be where we are today. We have worked with exemplary men and women who are committed to the struggle for economic emancipation.
One of the lowest moments was when there was a concerted effort to discredit the EFF when coming to VBS. It was clear that someone developed a strategy to delegitimise the EFF. It affected us because it happened on the eve of elections, but we managed to weather the storm nonetheless and campaign.
The other low point was when staff tried to hijack the movement. Some had to be dismissed and others left on their own. As we continue to build, we know that others will fall and we remain on course.
How do you explain why many ANC members do not have the conviction to join the EFF?
We have a problem of ageism in South Africa and particularly in the ANC. When we formed the EFF, we were referred to as boys and girls, even though we were married with kids and raising families. We also have a problem of egotism and tribalism. As a country we are characterised by these irritations and it will take a long time for people to warm up the idea of an alternative.
NUMSA forming a political party when the EFF was already formed was unnecessary. Political jealousy and squabbles are also a factor as well as politics of the stomach. What will the EFF give me upon joining? That’s what many ask themselves.
We’ve had instances where we’ve been assisted by the ANC like when we organised the Andries Tetane event. We didn’t have sufficient resources and it was the local municipality—ANC members—who saw to the success of the event by providing tables etc., so they want the EFF agenda to succeed but will not join.
John Stenhuisen has declared you enemy number one. What are your thoughts on that?
The DA has authentic internal reports that tells them that the EFF is surpassing them; breathing down their neck and disturbing their quest to deal with the ANC. They are number two with declining numbers, whilst the EFF maintains its position.
The EFF wants to work with all opposition parties and unseat the corrupt ANC and give South Africans an alternative, but we cannot impose ourselves on other political parties.
We have successfully worked with opposition parties post-2021 and have put them into power at municipalities across the country, but when we wanted to share a bit of power with the IFP and the DA, they rejected us.
Between you and the ANC, you have failed to pass the law of land expropriation without compensation in Parliament. Can you explain why?
The ANC agreed to expropriate land without compensation and Parliament passed the resolution. Road shows were done and South Africans agreed that land must be expropriated without compensation.
When we met with the ANC team, it was Ronald Lamola who opposed land expropriation without compensation in a manner that we had anticipated Bulelani Ngcuka to do. The deadlock came when we wanted the act to make explicit with regards to land expropriation without compensation.
The ANC was saying, let us expropriate state-owned land and you cannot expropriate land that you already own and land that is rotten. As the EFF, we want to expropriate prime land and we only trust the state with it, not this thing of Midrand where people are building beautiful homes in Waterfall, but never get title deeds because it belongs to an Indian family. The people are leasing for 99 years. There are no transfers paid because the land is never transferred to those people.
How are you going to deal with the issue of banks and what it means for the banks to belong to the state?
What is the South African Reserve Bank doing with African Bank, because as a regulator it should not be there. Their stake in African Bank should be given to the government and consolidated with the PIC and then turn it into a state bank. That doesn’t mean close privately-owned banks in the same way that public schools don’t require private schools to close and state hospitals do not nullify private hospitals. The state-owned bank must be able to offer services and compete with privately-owned banks.
On the issue of State-Owned Enterprises, what would you do differently if you were in power?
Firstly, a few years ago, Denel was a profitable company and so was Transnet. They were collapsed in front of us through corruption and cadre deployment done wrong.When I sit in discussions in COJ and Ekurhuleni. I do not even discuss the matter of an incompetent person being put up for a strategic position such as a CFO. If you don’t qualify, do not waste our time.
I believe in cadre deployment because you cannot be in government and not trust your own people, but they must be skilled and competent in whatever post you are deploying them in. Not this thing of deploying clueless people and hoping that they do not collapse that institution you are trusting them with.
What are your thoughts on the Jacob Zuma judgement, where he must go back to being incarcerated. Also, how do you feel about the Busisiwe Mkhwebane judgement?
The Mkhwebane judgement was bad because president Zuma could not appoint a judge for the commission because he was implicated in some of the things that led to establishment of the commission and was subject to investigation by the very commission. Cyril Ramaphosa, on the other hand, has fired a person who was investigating him.
Kholeka Gcaleka was a leader of the Youth League in Gauteng during our time and later left to work for the office of Melusi Gigaba. The reason the public protector’s term of office is seven years and non-renewable is so the public protector cannot be influenced by the current administration and also so he or she does not seek something.
Gcaleka knew that she was interested in becoming the public protector and has now exonerated the president. She also knows that the president has a majority in parliament and therefore has an influence on who becomes the next public protector.
When president Zuma was refusing to go to the commission, we went to see him and pleaded with him to go and appear at the commission and speak his truth. I went there because I told him that we are the ones who are going to inherit this country.
I then went to Ramaphosa and told him that he might need to give Zuma a presidential pardon for the sake of peace. I flew a number of people in and out of Gauteng to try and mediate what eventually happened in July. I knew what was going to happen. Zuma has served his sentence and parole is part of serving the sentence.
Are you happy with your succession plan in terms of replacing yourself?
When you look at the student command of the EFF and their graduates such as Vuyani and Snawo, you realise that the ability of the student command to produce second and third layer leadership of the EFF is satisfying. When you go through the leadership of the student command and listen to the speeches of the presidents, you sleep peacefully because it is evident that the EFF is spoilt for choice when it comes to the quality of leaders.
Do you regret making a call and pleading that you remain in the ANC and not be expelled?
I do not regret pleading to stay in the ANC. I would’ve corrected the ANC from within. I’ve never wanted to form a political party and I will never form another one if this EFF expels me. I said they must retain my membership and bar me from occupying any position of leadership for 10 years. Send me to Cuba or China for political education. I wanted them to allow me to keep my membership. I had made sufficient impact for me to remain influential without occupying a position of leadership.
They claim I’m a cult yet I didn’t recruit anyone when I left the ANC. I exited politics and went into farming and when Pravin saw me interviewed on January 8, he made sure that I had my farm taken away and that’s how I was invited back into politics.
Given your intimate knowledge of the ANC, are you concerned that at any point the current crop of leadership is prepared to hand over power? Are the dynamics of Zimbabwe and rigging elections something we may have to contend with come 2024?
In the EFF we are investing a lot of resources in party agents. We need to train party agents. We believe it is also important for opposition parties to work together so that we look after the votes of every opposition. Others may not have the capacity to be in all the voting stations.
I remain convinced that in 2019, votes were stolen in Gauteng. The ANC won by 50.1%, but before the announcement, we as the EFF were called to Saxonwold to meet Paul Mashatile who told us the ANC had lost and this information was based on the party agents on the ground. A few minutes later, he answered a call and came back to us to say they had won.
That is why we as the EFF are going to employ Terry Tselane to train all EFF party agents. If it means we must pay money, we will do so for party agents. Votes must be protected at all costs.
Prof JJ Tabane is Editor of Leadership MagazIne. The full interview can be accessed on you tube on frankdialogue.com