‘Struck by Jacob Zuma’s spear?’ Prof. John Molepo says EFF probably needs leadership revival



Published May 31, 2024


As the Electoral Commission of South Africa (IEC) continues to update its giant screens showing results at the national results operations centre in Midrand, it has become apparent that the results will leave South Africans shell-shocked.

After 4pm on Friday, the ruling African National Congress (ANC) had garnered more than four million votes, following by its decades-old nemesis, the Democratic Alliance (DA) with just over two million votes.

The third position in South African politics - a position which has for years become synonymous with the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF), was on Friday comfortably occupied by new kid on the block, the uMkhonto weSizwe (MK) Party led by the charismatic former president Jacob Zuma.

The former president of South Africa has made a dramatic, if not magical, return to his eventful political career - causing wholesale suffering to his comrades within the ANC, and beyond.

However, the resurrection of the man from Nkandla in KwaZulu-Natal not only pained his comrades in the ANC, but the EFF, led by Julius Malema, probably became collateral damage of Zuma’s spear.

Leader of uMkhonto weSizwe Party Jacob Zuma addressing a rally at Orlando Stadium in Soweto. File Picture: Itumeleng English/ Independent Newspapers

In an interview with IOL, Associate Professor at the North West University, John Molepo said after this election, the red berets have some deep introspection to do.

“Currently, from what we see, the performance of the EFF is not what we all anticipated, given how the party has held extensive campaigns and how they have been in the hearts of young people in this country. We thought the numbers (of EFF followers) would translate into votes.

“The question we are asking is – why is the EFF not growing? Maybe the South Africans are perhaps sending a message to the EFF, that probably it is time for another leader from the EFF who can run the party. Malema has been running this party for a while now and there seems to be stagnation. Why can’t someone like the deputy president Floyd Shivambu rise to the leadership and perhaps bring more voters?”

Molepo, however, said some of the factors bedevilling the EFF outfit are not of their own doing. The emergence of the MK Party impacted every political entity on the ballot, and unfortunately for the EFF, they had to be overtaken.

Elections 2024 results continue to trickle into the IEC National Results Operations Centre in Midrand. Picture: Sihle Mlambo / IOL

“Now what we see on the trickling results is how the MK has risen and overtaken their friends, the EFF. As South Africans, we should be asking ourselves, are we in the era of revenge politics or the era of identity politics? The Zuma factor has become quite a factor in these elections,” said Molepo.

Molepo said even after unleashing the charismatic EFF’s Dr Mbuyiseni Ndlozi as convener in Limpopo in 2022, there has been no evidence of successes from Malema’s home province.

“I think the EFF should relook their strategies. I do believe the issue of opening borders also became a factor. The EFF has been vocal on that matter, but I do think it hampers their votes. Julius has been raising the matter strongly and we see it in other parts of the world, like in Europe where they allow free movement of people – but is the South African public ready for that conversation? It has worked very well in Europe, but is our ground here fertile for such a discussion?”

He said the EFF hovering around 10% does not augur well for the vibrant, youth-centric movement.

EFF leader Julius Malema and EFF Gauteng Premier candidate Mbuyiseni Ndlozi. File Picture: Oupa Mokoena / Independent Newspapers

“Perhaps they also have to go into the deep rural areas. The EFF’s appeal to young voters is good, but they can extend into deep rural areas and crack that audience. From what I see, the urban middle class is hesitant when it comes to the EFF,” said Molepo.

Touching on the phoenix rise of the MK party, which after 4pm on Friday had garnered a respectable one million voters ahead of the EFF, Molepo said brand Zuma has been the winning formula of the new party.

uMkhonto Wesizwe Party leader and former South African president Jacob Zuma. Picture: DOCTOR NGCOBO / Independent Newspapers

“To many of us, this came as a surprise. It tells you how people love Zuma. Whether it is a matter of identity or revenge politics, that is something we should ponder on. To a great extent, the rise of the MK Party has deeply hurt the African National Congress. The former leader is hurting the current,” said Molepo.

“Not many people anticipated such a rise by MK Party. Look at KwaZulu, I do no know if that is loyalty, or maybe communities are saying leave this man alone.

“The important point to note is that parties that are hurting the ANC are linked to the same party. It speaks about how internal strife is being handled in the party. The ANC has been purging its own people who are ground soldiers, and it comes back to haunt the party.”

Associate Professor at the North West University, John Molepo. File Picture

On Friday, IOL reported that despite the uMkhonto weSizwe Party scooping up most of the votes in KwaZulu-Natal, the party said it has yet to decide who will sit as the coastal province’s premier.

Speaking to IOL at the provincial results centre in KwaZulu-Natal, the MK party’s Ndaba Gcwabaza said they have not decided on who will be premier.