The destructive naiveté of ActionSA’s EFF infatuation
If you want to remove the ANC from power, you simply cannot put the EFF in power. All ActionSA is doing is facilitating an agenda as destructive as it is chaotic.
ActionSA says above all else, its mission is to remove the ANC from power. Thus, it has adopted an “end justifies the means” approach to coalitions. In practical terms: it is willing to work with the EFF to achieve its goal, at least at the local government level.
An “end justifies the means” approach is always dangerous in politics, for it is to suspend principle. The principle here is that the EFF is a fascist and ethically compromised party, led by an ideological fundamentalist, as prone to hypocrisy as he is demagoguery. And, on a wide range of issues, a policy programme that is economically and socially destructive.
To justify this, ActionSA has produced a range of excuses. Central to them all is the claim that ideology is of little import at the local government level. That and much praise for the EFF as pro-poor and, at least historically, the argument that the party has been supportive of ActionSA leader Herman Mashaba — particularly in his previous role as Johannesburg mayor, to the extent that the EFF dubbed Mashaba “our mayor”.
This stands in stark contrast to the DA, which — having had a real-world taste of the EFF’s approach to coalitions — has made not working with the EFF a bottom line, much to ActionSA’s irritation, particularly in Ekurhuleni, where ActionSA recently held a media conference berating the DA for refusing to work with the EFF.
The DA’s dire experience with the EFF, however, is best illustrated not by looking at Johannesburg but rather Nelson Mandela Bay, where former DA mayor Athol Trollip bore the brunt of the EFF’s particular brand of chaos.
There, the EFF turned on Trollip and an administration that seemed to be making a difference, saying they would “cut the throat of whiteness” because of the DA’s position on expropriation without compensation (EWC), before voting — together with the ANC, UDM, UF, AIC and PA — to remove Trollip and usher in a new, entirely destructive ANC regime, which saw the metro once again regress into anarchy.
Trollip himself was deeply and understandable wounded by this. His Twitter account since he left the DA in 2019 is a veritable Parthenon of EFF insults.
He has called the EFF ”, a party that “needs chaos for its existence”; one that will “destroy itself before it destroys this beautiful country”; which trusting is “like sleeping on an engaged hand grenade”; who are “only consistent in their inconsistency” and “always do the opposite of what they say”; a party with “no credibility on anything least of all running a government, combating […] corrupt underworld relationships or combating corruption”; with an “EFF command that reeks of corruption” and whose “hubris is only surpassed by their greed”.
And of the EFF leader and EFF leadership, his various descriptions include the following: “thieves”, “a Mampara”, “violent rabble-rousers”, “red flip-floppers”, “red Pinocchios”; “[Malema is] hypocrisy”; “tin-pot ‘fighters’”; “all-round hypocrites and populist rabble-rousers”; “Gucci socialists”; “a megalomaniac”; “unacceptable”; “bombastic”; “red egomaniacs”; “an opportunist and completely untrustworthy”; “a tin-pot army”; “a hypocritical megalomaniac”; “Robbing Hoods”; “clowns”; and ultimately that Malema himself must be “charged and prosecuted in a court of law”.
To this end, Trollip says on working with the EFF, “once bitten twice shy”. And that’s before you get to what he has had to say about UDM leader Bantu Holomisa, which makes his EFF venom seem almost polite by comparison. Trollip did not leave opposition politics with a lot of friends.
At this point, we must pause, and briefly indulge the absurd, as it appears Trollip is set to join ActionSA. Perhaps he will, perhaps he won’t. If he does, he has some explaining to do. Not that DA defectors ever get asked to explain themselves, but, if he does join the EFF-infatuated ActionSA, well, let’s just say that’s a circle that seems “unsquarable”.
Regardless, there are good practical reasons for the DA not to work with the EFF. It cannot be trusted. It will align with the ANC just as soon as it will the DA. Whatever works best for it. Ironically, this is exactly what happened in Ekurhuleni, where the EFF voted for a DA mayor, then suddenly for itself, when it came to portfolio chairperson-ships.
ActionSA would do well to research this a bit. Perhaps speak to Trollip and he can explain to them that any relationship with the EFF is akin, basically, to put a loaded gun in your mouth. Not every metro coalition experience is Mashaba’s experience (not that being played a fool is any better). He needs to put his ego aside if he can.
But there are strong ideological reasons too, whatever ActionSA’s protestations about local government being “non-ideological”. The EFF for one cares nothing about that assessment — for that party, everything is ideological. And so it doesn’t really matter what ActionSA thinks — the EFF has a different understanding. And it will use every platform — best illustrated by its appropriation of insourcing in Johannesburg under Mashaba — as an ideological metaphor for its cause.
And it will use that good-faith assessment to run riot, again as it did on land invasions in Johannesburg — encouraging land invasions at every opportunity, while enjoying the blissful naiveté or support of Mashaba, who either wouldn’t believe the problem or would do nothing about it.
It is either arrogant or ignorant, or both, for ActionSA to think, simply because it declares local government nonideological, the EFF will be bound by that analysis. What they will do is say, “thank you”, and proceed to do as they please.
And that matters because the EFF’s entire rationale is built on ANC policy — every idea they have ever had comes from the Freedom Charter, ANC Youth League policy or the ANC itself. From EWC to NHI to a state-owned pharmaceutical company. True, they advocate for these ideas in their most virulent, socialist form — and try to drive the ANC in that direction. But the ideas are ANC, through and through.
They are no less compromised on corruption and unethical behaviour either. The party regularly breaks the law. Often it openly calls for the law to be broken (on the illegal occupation of land for example), it terrorises its enemies (private capital being one of them), it is bigoted towards Indians, and it has been involved in a series of scandals that have resulted in zero accountability. When it isn’t doing that, it is informally promoting or defending the most recalcitrant elements of the ANC. It is entirely ethically compromised.
If you want to remove the ANC from power, you simply cannot put the EFF in power. Do that, and you are really enabling and augmenting ANC hegemony, practically and policy-wise. All ActionSA is doing is giving credence to a farce, and facilitating an agenda as destructive as it is chaotic.
Why this doesn’t occur to ActionSA is anyone’s guess. It’s not like there isn’t an encyclopaedia’s worth of evidence in this regard. The only explanation is ActionSA doesn’t agree with any of it; that ActionSA has adopted the kind of extremist conspiracy and fringe position so popular on a range of issues in the world today. That is has decided it alone can see the truth of the EFF, and evidence and reason count for nothing in the face of its all-seeing eye.
That is just myopic. And it will be the people in all those metros where the EFF is given a hold on power who will suffer. The EFF cares nothing for them either. Its only purpose is self-promotion and chaos, the two serving the same ideological goal: destabilise to usher in the revolution.
You can be part of that agenda, or you can oppose it. And ActionSA needs to stop behaving, ironically, like the EFF and thinking practicality will override or render redundant any of the EFF’s grand plans. The EFF cares nothing for formal agreements. It will turn on a dime — ask Trollip. To think otherwise is child-like.
Herman Mashaba is a curious character. He is naïve on one level and demagogic on the other. He can promote xenophobic sentiments, and fool himself into believing he can control the EFF. In turn, he can switch positions (as on BEE) overnight. He has a lot of Malema about him — perhaps that explains the affinity. This is the great age of populism after all.
But the moral spectrum he uses puts the ANC at one end and him at the other. That is how he frames himself and his party. Only, there is the EFF and ActionSA’s approach to it, and it makes a mockery of Mashaba’s morality. The EFF is Mashaba’s blind spot. He simply cannot locate that party on a moral spectrum.
It is baffling to watch. And it will be the end of him unless he develops a more meaningful and sustained analysis of that party and his own. In short, he needs to put aside his willful ignorance and think for a bit. What is ActionSA really? A practical vehicle to facilitate anyone, to remove the ANC? In other words, the means justify the ends. Or a principled party, that stands for something, and has a bottom line determined by something other than expediency?
It is doubtful he will ever reflect in that way. Too much egoism and demagoguery flow through his veins. It’s the problem with parties built on a single personality. They take on the characteristics of their leader. So ActionSA will always be favourable to the EFF, because Mashaba is, and there is no ActionSA without him. It’s the politics of personality, and that, ultimately, is the real means and end.
By: GARETH VAN ONSELEN