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EFF now pressing anti-immigrant button in bid to charm voters, says HSRC researcher

EFF Leader Julius Malema inspects Johannesburg restaurants that employ foreign nationals. Photo Sizwe Ndingane/EFF

EFF Leader Julius Malema inspects Johannesburg restaurants that employ foreign nationals. Photo Sizwe Ndingane/EFF

Published Jan 20, 2022

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Pretoria – The much-publicised visits by Economic Freedom Fighters leader Julius Malema to restaurants to inspect the ratio of South African to immigrant workers employed is a campaign to drum up support which may fuel animosity and anti-immigrant sentiments, the Human Science Research Council’s Dr Steven Gordon has said.

“Obviously the EFF’s actions over the recent period show a party trying to push the anti-immigrant button despite their rhetoric to the contrary. This, I assume is an attempt to show up support within certain constituencies following a disappointing performance in the recent local government elections,” Gordon told TV channel Newzroom Afrika.

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He said politicians should avoid sowing inter-group animosity to drive political support.

“South Africa has a very long history in which politicians used divisive rhetoric around inter-group relations to obtain power, and that divisive and tragic history is still borne in the legacy of South Africa today,” said Gordon, who is a public opinion scientist.

He said debates about economic opportunity and immigration in South Africa should acknowledge that a significant minority in South Africa holds very strong anti-immigrant views and when activated, these views can cause violent anti-immigrant activity.

There is a “zero-sum bias” amongst certain South Africans who wrongly believe that if a foreign national gets an economic opportunity, it is lost to a local person, the senior researcher said.

“This zero-sum thinking is very powerful in South Africa. The Human Science Research Council recently completed a substantial piece of research showing that one third of adult South Africans hold these zero-sum bias views in a high manner. They are highly predisposed to view economic opportunities as regards to foreign nationals in zero-sum way,” said Gordon.

“Economists will tell you that this is a very limited and frankly uninformed way to think about economic opportunity. Economic opportunity is not zero-sum.”

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On Wednesday, Malema forced the owners of Kream restaurant at the Mall of Africa in Midrand, Johannesburg, to meet him and two other party MPs after they initially refused to do so.

Malema and EFF spokesperson Vuyani Pambo met Kream manager Romon De Comarmond outside the establishment.

Comarmond initially refused to meet the EFF delegation led by Malema, stating: “No, we are not going to meet with a delegation, Julius, I can’t. I’m going to speak to the management and I’ll let you know.”

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Malema insisted that he had an appointment with Comarmond and Kream.

”There is no appointment with me, you have not come with me with an appointment,” Comarmond fired back.

The EFF leadership in Tshwane has also been visiting restaurants, inspecting the employment ratio of South Africans to non-citizens.

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