By Trevor Ngwane
The prospect of an ANC-EFF coalition government running South Africa is causing a panic among some middle-class people and the rich. After several years of the EFF entering into coalitions with the DA and the IFP in some municipalities, the party of Julius Malema has changed its tune and is now actively seeking and entering into coalitions with the ANC as we saw in Johannesburg and Ekurhuleni recently. Is this cause for concern for the future of the country? Will such coalitions benefit the poor at the expense of the rich?
Of concern is that in the municipalities where the EFF has sought coalition with the ANC there has been instability and chaos. As Ralph Mathekga observes, ‘councils collapse before family photos could be placed on the desk of the newly elected mayor’. Another concern is the selection and installation of minority party candidates into mayorships and mayoral committees that arguably bears no relation to the candidates’ capabilities and the confidence and mandate they enjoy from the electorate as reflected in the number of votes they won.
The DA has called the newly appointed candidate put forward by the ANC-EFF a “puppet mayor” suggesting that Johannesburg’s first citizen owes his position to the political machinations, power plays and horse trading among coalition partners. With the ANC consistently losing votes at the local, provincial and national levels from election to election, there is a real prospect of South Africa entering into a phase of coalition governments. What people have seen of coalitions in the municipalities does not instil confidence and indeed suggests a new era of uncertainty, instability and insecurity in all levels of government.
From the very name the EFF chose to call itself there is a strong suggestion that South African democracy lacks an important component, namely, economic freedom and well-being. We are free from apartheid and its racial oppression and brutality, but economically we are still in bondage. There is political freedom yet this is an unfinished democracy, another step must be taken to cater for the economic needs of the masses. Or so the story goes.
The EFF frightens the capitalist class, the rich and the privileged because of its economic radicalism. The EFF demands nationalisation of land without compensation in order to benefit the landless millions. It speaks of struggle, power and wealth. Its leaders speak with anger against the bosses, white monopoly capital, and the ANC government which does nothing to take back the land and the wealth to benefit the dispossessed. It calls itself a Marxist-Leninist and Fanonian party presenting itself as a future alternative government. The leader, Malema, and the party, the EFF, will lead the oppressed and exploiters to the promised land.
From the perspective of the working class and the poor, the question is whether the ANC-EFF coalitions that are taking South African local government by storm will indeed lead to the emancipation of the masses from all forms of exploitation and oppression. The EFF is forming coalitions with the ANC, a capitalist party in charge of a capitalist state. The job of the ANC is to defend and protect private ownership and the profits of the capitalist class. To achieve this, the ANC must contain and control the struggle of the working class, making sure that it is defeated. How can the EFF achieve economic freedom for the masses when it is in coalition with a bosses party?
South Africa is not just a democracy, it is a capitalist democracy founded on the protection of private property. The EFF wants economic freedom as the next phase in the struggle for liberation but, in reality, economic freedom already exists. This freedom is already there in the bourgeois democracy of the post-apartheid state. It is the freedom of bosses to exploit labour, to steal the wealth produced by workers in the name of profits. Apartheid was not simply racism, it was about exploiting cheap black labour. Apartheid did not just leave us with a legacy of racism, it also left us with the legacy of exploitation.
Workers also enjoy economic freedom. As Karl Marx put it, they are ‘free to work or to starve’. For the working class, bourgeois democracy is a very limited form of democracy. In fact, it is a distorted and oppressive democracy. It comes with the limitations of private ownership. It comes with capitalist impositions on the working and living conditions of the working class. It comes with poverty, unemployment and inequality. With the prioritisation of profits over human needs. Freedom under capitalism, as Abahlali baseMjondolo say, is unfreedom.
In South Africa, and everywhere in the world, the capitalist system is in crisis. Its political form, bourgeois democracy, is in decay because it cannot deliver on its promises of providing for the economic needs of the masses. Democracy loses its meaning when millions and millions suffer the ravages of an economic system in decline. Bourgeois democratic governance is always under threat, undermined and limited. Fraud, corruption and criminality flourish. Competitive individualism thrives in the social, economic and political spheres. Public office is turned into a platform for self-enrichment.
The impending crisis of political coalitions in South Africa cannot be avoided without challenging private property and the greed, uncertainty, instability and insecurity it engenders.
Trevor Ngwane is the Director of the Centre for Sociological Research and Practice, University of Johannesburg.
* The views expressed do not necessarily reflect the views of IOL or Independent Media