The EFF has been able to tap into the anger of the country’s youth and the poor, something that was lacking in South African politics, political analysts say reflecting on the party’s 4th birthday this week.
The party was launched on July 28 2013 and to celebrate, it plans to rally its supporters at its annual birthday bash in Durban on Saturday.
The party was launched following the expulsion of former ANC Youth League leader Julius Malema from the ANC in 2012.
It obtained 6% of the national vote in the general elections in 2014 and became the king maker in a number of municipalities at the 2016 local government elections.
It then went on to help the DA wrestle power from the ANC in three metros Johannesburg, Tshwane and Nelson Mandela Bay.
Political analyst Professor Susan Booysen said the party had done well in the past four years and has changed the political landscape.
She said the EFF’s advantage compared to other political parties, lied in its ability to draw from the ANC’s potential growth constituency -especially among the youth.
“I think they have changed the party political landscape, both organisationally, in adding another political party which was necessary, and changing the substance of party political contestation,” she said.
“It captured most of the potential growth constituency of the ANC. In its radicalism, it conservatised influence of South African politics and channelled much of that ‘angry young vote’ into party politics and into Parliament,” Booysen said.
Some key examples, of the party’s power, were the recent #FeesMustFall protests across the country’s universities, where young people demanded free education. The EFF’s young student leadership played a pivotal role in bringing forth the radical debate on education.
Unisa Professor Somadoda Fikeni shared similar sentiments to Booysen's and said the EFF’s performance has also put some pressure on opposition parties like the DA. Fikeni said sometimes the party’s influence made it seem like it was the main opposition party.
“Irrespective of its small number in Parliament, it has played a very robust role as an opposition – even outshining the main opposition. Its focus has mainly been on the youth and the poor and to that extent we can say it has had an influence on the attention given to the issues that were maybe not focused on,” Fikeni said.
Since its first appearance in Parliament in 2014, the EFF has been a thorn to President Jacob Zuma and the ANC.
Zuma’s State of the Nation Addresses (Sona) have been disrupted by the EFF demanding that he pay back the money for renovations to his Nkandla home.
At the last Sona, EFF Members of Parliament were thrown out of the assembly by Parliament’s security. The party does not attend Parliamentary sessions when Zuma’s is due to give an address, because it does not recognise him as legitimate president.
In a recent interview with the City Press, Malema professed that his party would be able to take power from the ANC by gaining 5o% of the national vote in the 2019 elections.
Fikeni said Malema’s utterances seemed unlikely to be achieved, but were instead part of the political lexicon of political parties drumming up their supporters.
“It’s not possible in a space of a year and half, for the EFF to have made such strides to become the ruling party. Political parties are generally ambitious and so are their leaders. It’s because they have to motivate their supporters into all possibilities,” said Fikeni.
Booysen said such a huge growth for the EFF was not possible, especially if people had hopes that ANC could turn the tide after President Jacob Zuma leaves office.
“I really do not see that happening. If voters buy into the fact that there is an ANC even after Zuma then maybe the EFF will not be able to gain those vote that it is talking about,” Booysen said.