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Johannesburg - Barely out of the starting gate and new kid on the block EFF has bled more than 300 members to rival upstart Agang SA.
The defections have dealt a blow to Economic Freedom Fighters leader Julius Malema’s ambition to secure seats in Parliament and in the Gauteng provincial legislature.
The new recruits, including former EFF Gauteng leaders Pule Matshitshe and Nozi Poswayo, were on Wednesday unveiled to the media by Vanessa Hani, Agang SA’s women organiser, and Moeketsi Mosola, the political director, at the party’s headquarters in Braamfontein.
Matshitshe was EFF’s Gauteng provincial organiser, and Poswayo was the provincial co-ordinator.
In July, Poswayo joined hundreds of Cope supporters who warmed the Johannesburg High Court’s benches, hearing the matter between factional Cope presidents Mosiuoa Lekota and Mbhazima Shilowa. The benches were divided between Lekota and Shilowa supporters.
It was not clear when Poswayo became EFF provincial leader, but she took an oath of loyalty to Agang.
During the media conference, they were evasive about their decision to ditch Malema for Agang SA’s leader and former liberation struggle icon, Mamphela Ramphele. Journalists had to struggle for more than an hour to get answers.
Matshitshe insinuated that backstabbing, back-biting and factions were a common occurrence in the EFF, but later said he was not willing to speak ill of his former party and its leaders. He also said EFF meetings were convened to discuss individuals.
Matshitshe said the EFF was rocked by ideological turbulence, which was hampering progress on its organisational work.
Poswayo said their decision was based on the fact that they believed “expropriation of land without compensation and nationalisation of key economic points” were not realistic policies.
“Some of EFF’s policies were contradictory. We were known (in EFF) as fighters. Our transition to Agang was good. The country has a constitution through which we implement things rather than fight. We joined Agang because its policies speak to us.
“The other reason for joining was that we believed nationalisation will never work. We are likely to lose investments in our country if we nationalise the key sectors of the economy. We also did not believe in the expropriation of land without compensation.”
Hundreds of Agang SA’s new recruits attended the media conference.
Matshitshe said most of them were former branch and regional leaders of EFF from all Gauteng’s five regions.
He said the EFF leaders were expected to go back to their branches and regions and convert them to Agang’s way of thinking so that they could also join.
The conference hall was packed and most of the songs sung at the event were synonymous with the ruling ANC - even the chanting.
Welcoming the recruits, Mosola said his party hoped that Agang SA could restore the promise of freedom for all. “Young people across the country respect Dr Ramphele’s integrity and life-long fight for freedom. People from all walks of life see that Agang SA is the only non-racial home for all South Africans.
“We will welcome all citizens who respect and live by Agang SA’s values of and those of the struggle: dignity, equality and freedom. Agang SA’s thousands of members and volunteers are mobilising now to bring change in 2014.
“The new members will be expected to work hard in their structures and progress on merit, like any other party member. After nearly 20 years of stealing by ANC leaders, we must change course now or corruption will rob us all of our future. Agang SA is going to kick corrupt leaders out of government and restore dignity, hope and freedom for all.”
EFF national spokesman Mbuyiseni Ndlozi confirmed the defections. “Economic Freedom Fighters confirms that some of its members have left the organisation, including members of the (provincial command team) in Gauteng. It must be noted, those members who have left do not constitute 1 percent of the members EFF has in Gauteng.
“We are aware that many defected because they were promised payments for the work they will do in Agang SA.” He said this meant they were bought by Ramphele with the money she got from the “sweat and blood of mineworkers” and shares from mining companies who have taken the country’s mineral resources, Ndlozi said.