Last week Radio Islam conducted a discussion and analysis of the Manifesto and performance of the EFF. The discussion was conducted with Asri political analyst Ebrahim Fakir. The EFF has an ambitious manifesto, promising economic growth rates of up to 10% once it takes over from the ANC. It will also criminalise racism and will abolish the 30% matric pass rate. Most importantly, the EFF is behind the idea of expropriation without compensation. Thus the party’s Manifesto and performance has to be discussed as part of better-informing listeners when they make their choice for the upcoming elections.
It certainly is an ambitious manifesto. But how much of it is a wish list and how much can work in practice? Let’s look for example to his plan for an amended national minimum wage: R12 500 for mineworkers, R5 000 for farmworkers, R6 500 for manufacturing workers and retail workers will get R5 000. The question is whether this is practical or not? To which Ebrahim Fakir responded. It is not only impossible but hinders on possibly entering a fiscal abyss. Because we will enter a vacuum, by spending our way out of everything. Moving away from a budget surplus and into a small budget deficit is not a major problem. Because a state must be able to provide the protection for the vulnerable that are excluded. However, there is a limit to how that can be done. Under the ANC government, welfare systems, free basic education, an extension of healthcare, free clinics, RDP housing, socially subsidised housing and subsidised transport already cost our government far too much. More than it ordinarily should have. In addition to that, the social grant system that has, close to 17 million South Africans on it, will eventually push the government to spend everything. The EFF to its own credit has said that they have calculated all of these things and looked at all sectors and nationalising sectors to make the money themselves. In theory, it sounds perfect, but in reality, it won't stand. Having a government-run insurance company, banks, mines, manufacturing on top of local and provincial governments and healthcare and education is idealistic.
Looking at the manifesto, which ideas would you say stood out as workable and realistic? “There is a popular discourse that the EFF has put things onto the agenda and allowed people to tackle them as problems. For example racism, land expropriation and insourcing workers. These were all regarded as agendas which were driven from the EFF.” Ebrahim Fakir responded. He further explained that the reality is that these things have been spoken about in the ANC and the South African society before any mention by the EFF. Ideas like insourcing workers are good, and it has its advantages. Also, the idea of running twenty-four hour a day clinics and massive amounts of jobs are admirable ideas. But it is their partibility that isn’t realistic. The bigger question remains, does the EFF have the power and influence to achieve this, to which many would answer no. There is too much dispute within their own party, which contributes to this lack of power and influence. People within their own staff, complain and have divisions, which is quite evident. It is clear that this will probably be an example of saying one thing and us seeing a completely different thing in practice.
How would you rate their overall performance over the past five years, what would you say were some of their significant achievements? Ebrahim responded that when it comes to the EFF’s achievements it has made our political scene very interesting. We often find ourselves on tenterhooks, because of our intrigue as to what will happen next. This was particularly the case after the collapse of the Nelson Mandela Bay municipality, the attempts to remove the mayor of Tshwane. Watching these things can be very interesting for so long before it becomes frustrating. They have injected some greater ideology into the political space, but much of it is fairly crude. “But if I were to characterize their performance, I would characterize it purely as disruptive and destabilising. They often mimic the behaviour of colonialists.” Ebrahim stated. We ask ourselves, what did colonialist do, they basically went into societies, took away their agencies and wanted to do everything on their behalf. In doing so they divided the society, they sewed divisions instead of healing society. The indigenous institutions and processes which the society created themselves were undermined, disrupted and destabilised by the colonialists. These are the three things the EFF mimics, and their objectives are in line with this. When looking at the numbers we can see that the EFF’s support is derived from mainly three provinces, Limpopo, North West and Gauteng. In Gauteng, they have about 10% of the votes, compared to other parties. About 40% of their support comes from Gauteng, the other two provinces, North West and Limpopo account for a big portion. The free state included that comes up to about 75% of their support. Looking at other provinces like KZN we see they only have 2%. A low 3% in the Western Cape and close to 2.5% in the Northern Cape and 2.8% in the Eastern Cape. Thus the numbers in light of support are very small. We could make the claim that on the bases of the evidence it is quite a regional party.
To what extent would you say the VBS scandal has tarnished them? It is hard to say that this is a complete death-knell and you can't simply pin things on them. In the same way in which people say that things in the Zondo commission has not yet been tested or pinned directly on people, and there haven’t been cross-examinations of people. In the same way, not much can be said about the EFF and the link with the VBS scandal. These links haven’t been tested but are just speculated by the media. Someone now has to go back to check the sources of these funds. But I think the EFF does have some merit in the defences that have mounted. Where there are clear implications, like on point engineering or other companies then prosecution wasn’t taken. It put the case of impunity forward and entrenched it. Now it is fairly difficult to prove these as the links are very tenuous. Investigative journalists have given us links and hints, but no one has prosecuted, or done the proper audits or full investigations. This is impossible to say that the EFF would be hurt by these rather than proven acts of corruption. Until such time it is hard to say that is the case, and for now they will be judged not on these accusations but on their own performance. Ebrahim explained.
What are your thoughts on their prospects going into this election? To which Ebrahim Fakir responded, I think their support is concentrated in only those provinces. It is fairly marginal in the coastal provinces. This raises uncomfortable questions about the kind of ethnic make up that supports them. However we should discount this, but the support is regionalised and is focused in Gauteng, North West and Limpopo. To double up on that support means you need to double up on voters and support in these provinces first and break the 5% barrier in the other provinces that are below 5%. In any election to double up your support is fairly tough. In the 2016 local government election, the EFF had an incremental increase of 2% from 2014. Hence we should be cautious because the nature of the system is different from the nature of turn out. We don’t know if people will feel enthusiastic given the damping effect of the various accusations against the ANC. This could push up the votes for the EFF. As people might feel angry at the ANC and vote for the EFF because of that. But we cannot accurately make that assumption. In 2016 they benefited because of the nature of the system. Because even though people are not actively coming out to vote for a particular party, the party’s share or portion goes down because their people haven’t come out to vote. And other party’s share goes up, here the EFF might pick up certain things. The sudden shift in voters attitudes, of going to the EFF seems a bit farfetched. “I would be surprised if they reach a doubling of their figured from the last elections, as I don’t think they will get there” Ebrahim Fakir stated firmly.