The EFF's Floyd Shivambu was caught on camera attacking journalist Adrian de Kock.
Life is full of ironies. South Africa has more than most and Tuesday was a red-letter day in more ways than one. Perhaps the first irony was that on the eve of Human Rights Day - commemorating the Sharpeville massacre 58 years before - we had the deputy president of a political party, known among others for its vigorous protestations against state intolerance and concomitant thuggery in Parliament, caught on video throttling a journalist.

The journalist's crime? He'd had the temerity to take a picture of Floyd Shivambu, the deputy president of the Economic Freedom Fighters - a party also known for its insatiable need for publicity and its unprecedented ability to garner sound bites and column inches by plying the media with ready-made quotes and publicity stunts - outside Parliament.

A lesser known irony is that Shivambu had picked on one of the nicest, kindest and calmest photo-journalists in the country. Adrian de Kock of Netwerk24 was never going to fight back. He stood his ground, but he remained ice cool, while Shivambu tightened his grip.

Shivambu would have known this instinctively, bullies do. There are others who wouldn't have stood for his nonsense. More than a couple of them would have knocked him flat on his backside, figuratively and literally. The problem is that South Africans aren't just forgiving, we're also opportunistic in our expedience.

The EFF has never been more than what it was when it was still the ANC Youth League in the thrall of Julius Malema and Shivambu. They're both a lot better educated than they were then and, thanks to the "people's bae" Dr Mbuyiseni Ndlozi, even more photogenic and media friendly than ever before, but the nihilistic DNA remains - seasoned by a childish petulance that none of them have ever really outgrown.

South Africa, and particularly the middle class, forgave them all that - and actively overlooked it too - because the EFF was the only party really sticking it to president Jacob Zuma in public. The DA might have been waging a long and often thankless battle through the courts - which only came to fruition last week after a decade of effort - but it was the EFF telling the president to his face (and his acolytes) in Parliament, what everyone else was filling their social media time-lines with.

The EFF, though, hadn't really changed much from the same bunch of bare-arsed, chair-throwing louts who elected Malema and Shivambu at the heroically dysfunctional ANC Youth League congress in Bloemfontein in April 2008. You can see this in the way the EFF would capture the moral high ground, only to lose it in the next gasp. As good an example as any would be their bizarre campaign against retailer H&M earlier this year, where they entered shops causing mayhem, attacking store mannequins to protest racial injustice and black exploitation.

Shivambu, to his - or his handlers' - credit, apologised fairly smartly after the video of him throttling De Kock went viral. But here too whatever good was engendered was immediately squandered by its qualifications. Shivambu said he was sorry for the "scuffle". There was no such thing.

It was a blatant assault. He then seems to suggest it would be fine for him to have manhandled De Kock if De Kock hadn't been a journalist.

But, as the hawks on social media were quick to note, it's all semantics in the end. Throttling a journalist for refusing to delete a picture they might or might not have taken becomes a scuffle and a call to “cut the throat of whiteness” is just a metaphor to unseat Athol Trollip as mayor of the Nelson Mandela Metro, not hate speech reminiscent of Africa Addio.

The EFF has a proven tendency, unequivocally fascist in its execution, to close down dissent that goes all the way back to those ungovernable days in the league when Malema expelled BBC reporter Jonah Fisher for having the temerity to call him out on his hypocrisy.

Nobody held Malema out to dry, instead the video of him telling Fisher: “Here you behave or else you jump. Don't come here with that white tendency, go out, bastard, bloody agent!” became an internet sensation, beloved of comedians and chortled over by those who should have known better.

Likewise, when the EFF declared a fatwa on journalists from ANN7 actually attending party press conferences, there wasn't unanimous condemnation primarily because of ANN7’s links to the Guptas and alleged role in state capture - and journalists unable to separate personal perceptions from professional duty.

We are reaping the harvest of those seeds we sowed. As a country, though, we're like adults with ADHS - as long as the end justifies the means.

On the same day that Shivambu was getting his comeuppance on Twitter and Facebook, his political colleague, Dali Mpofu, was being lionised far and wide. The EFF's national chairperson had just got Proteas' star bowler Kagiso Rabada off his original ICC ban that would have excluded him from the rest of the Australian test series currently under way in Cape Town.

There were vows for eternal support for the EFF at the polls beforehand if he got him off and calls for him to be dubbed the "people's advocate" and even given national honours by the president afterwards.

The irony was complete.

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