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EFF anniversary celebrations: A solid nine years of active fight for economic freedom in our lifetime

EFF leader Julius Malema addressing supporters. Picture: Timothy Bernard African News Agency (ANA)

EFF leader Julius Malema addressing supporters. Picture: Timothy Bernard African News Agency (ANA)

Published Aug 1, 2022


Sello sa mogologolo! Ijoo rare ijoo, ijoo rare ijoo! These are the words echoed from the caves of the heroic Afrikan people crying for their usurped land and their cultures and knowledge systems that have been vanquished, dismembered and distorted by those from foreign lands, the settlers.

The courage of resistance. This is a libation and an appeal to the Afrikan ancestors to invigorate us in our fight for that which our invaders stole. Decades ago, a renowned author and poet of the Bapedi, Moses Madiba, packaged this anti-colonial message in the form of "Sello sa mogologolo" to reawaken the Afrikan child. He was, if you like, a trojan horse in the curriculum of the loathed Bantu Education.

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Today, the Afrikan continent resonates with the power of Madiba's cry as personified by the charismatic revolutionary, Sello, a Cry of the people. That powerful epic literary piece in that most revered series of Mahlontebe (a collection of Madiba's poems and short stories) has found its meaningful and concrete expression in the work of the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) in its nine-year trajectory.

Today, I speak (or write) in tribute and salutation to this personified Cry as the bearer and spreader of the message from the Afrikan ancestors, including Madiba, whose hand the gods assigned to pen the message of true liberation. I write today in acknowledgement of the contributions of Sello Julius Malema and the regiment of Economic Freedom Fighters as they celebrate their ninth anniversary of existence in this dangerously colonised space of Azania.

EFF leader Julius Malema. Picture: Timothy Bernard African News Agency (ANA)

In spectacular fashion, this country had, until the coming of the EFF, been on a dedicated mission to sweep the black man's pain, suffering, landlessness and oppression under the bright and colourful carpet of the rainbow. That was almost 20 years of blatant runaway Neo-liberalism.

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Then comes the Movimiento veintisiete de Julio (the 26 July Movement) in this country, Azania. In this context, and on this occasion, I deliberately choose to be biased and speak good of the EFF and its leader as a tribute because it's their celebration of a huge milestone.

This is by no means child's play. Indeed, this is something that should not be taken for granted. It is nine years of impactful politicking and activism in the cut-throat jungle of electoral politics of South Africa, characterised by proliferation and congestion of political parties, hostile Neo-liberal dominant media, unrelenting anti-black propaganda and aggressive white capital-sponsored political role players, including foundations and NGOs.

It's their ninth anniversary, which deservedly calls for serious recognition and appreciation. South Africa is by no means a safe space for leftist politics and activism. I trust this point should enunciate why the ninth anniversary of the EFF should not be allowed to go unrecognised. Therefore, this recognition and celebration should not be left to the members of the EFF alone. All Africanists and those inclined to the politics of the left should share in this feat.

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So, I unapologetically join everyone who celebrates and congratulates the EFF today. As I proceed with my partisan task, I will therefore leave it to hypochondriacs and the detractors of the EFF to spew any negative phrases and remarks about them.

For today only, please just allow me to be partisan. In this regard, I am immediately reminded of those days at the pre-1994 Rhodes University in Grahamstown. The student leaders then arranged an occasion for the revolutionary leader, Chris Hani, to address the university community.

The vibrant student leaders at the time, under the auspices of the freshly founded SANSCO (the predecessor of the present-day SASCO), included the likes of the late exceptionally talented Chule "KK" Papiyana. It's extremely sad that this revolutionary and iconic student activist is forgotten. Anyway, the point that I wish to make about that gathering at Rhodes University is how Hani's opening lines have stuck in my mind up to this day. Decades later! Spotting a trademark cap with the appropriate words, "Rebel", Hani took to the podium and said, "Comrades, ladies and gentlemen, I want to declare at the outset that I am partisan".

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So therefore, allow me today, in that spirit, to be partisan and speak good about the wonderful achievement of the 26 July Movement on this Afrikan continent, the Economic Freedom Fighters!

What inspired the EFF? Like all revolutionary movements in history, including the Russian Bolsheviks in 1917 and the Cuban Revolution of Castro's Movimiento veintisiete de Julio, the EFF was formed as a response to the challenges, crises and tribulations confronting the oppressed people. Like all revolutionary movements, they had to answer the classic question: What is to be done? Indeed, the response was to rally around the vision of "economic freedom in our lifetime".

EFF member Anthony Matumba is forcefully removed from the National Assembly as he disrupts President Cyril Ramaphosa. Picture: Phando Jikelo/African News Agency(ANA)

This explains the formation of the EFF, which was born at the time socialism, black consciousness and Pan-Afrikanism were threatened, demonised and suppressed in the so-called democratic dispensation in South Africa. It was born at the time when the ideals of the freedom struggle, as prosecuted by the liberation movement, were suffocated under the pillow of the rainbow. In truth, the erstwhile liberation movement (ANC) had become too comfortable and nestled in rainbow politics; and had become hostile to the poor masses and the working class.

It is as if it was by a divine and ancestral intervention that the genesis or history of the EFF is intractably connected, literally and metaphorically, with the blood of black people in Marikana, the ones who were killed by the government of an erstwhile liberation movement, the ANC. A very shameful act indeed. As we speak, ten years on, no one has been arrested for their killing. It cannot be denied, when interpreting the nine years of activism and revolution by the EFF, that it is through their agitation, within and outside parliament, that the black nation has been mobilised against the oppressive system under the dangerous blanket of rainbow-ism.

The regressive effect of rainbow-ism is that it de-campaigns, de-legitimises, neutralises and depoliticises the masses and their painful experiences. It makes people facing hardships celebrate "human rights" instead of liberation.

The importance of consciousness and conscientisation of the black masses in this anti-black world cannot be overemphasised. Black consciousness or Afrikan (race)-consciousness needs to deal with white domination concealed in the packet of the rainbow.

Rainbow-ism is like an opiate that slows down our urge for true liberation and entices us to forget the pain and suffering inflicted on us by the oppressive system. The arrival of the EFF in the political arena has conscientised black people about vigilance when t comes to political office. The (mal)performance of the post-1994 government has taught us what to do when, as a people, you have the upper hand. In other words, what not to do when you have political power. That is avoidance of complacency and playing with that power.

The reality is that the ANC had displayed a textbook lesson of what not to do when in political office. They had forgotten about the liberation ideals. The 28 years of the rainbow dispensation have been about the imposition of lukewarm, white-appeasing policies, supercilious attitude and arrogance of "rule until Jesus comes". The interpretation of this country's current socio-political events and dynamics clearly shows that this arrogance persists. The apparent reluctance to make the leaders accountable in the face of blatant and naked indiscretions is a vital indicator of this unbelievable state of affairs.

The emergence of the EFF in 2013 brought fresh air to our polity whereby too many people were, for the first time, conscientised of the powerful ideas articulated by Frantz Fanon and Thomas Sankara. My view, therefore, is that the ancestors chose someone from within the ranks of the ANC, imbued with the spirit of Kwame Nkrumah and Thomas Sankara, to look beyond political freedom and fight against capitalism and imperialism in the quest for economic freedom. Therefore, Nkrumah's stance that "political freedom without economic emancipation is meaningless" became the livewire of the EFF campaigns.

EFF supporters. Picture: Oupa Mokoena/African News Agency(ANA)

What has been noteworthy has been the bold embracing by the EFF of the stance of Pan Afrikanists within the original ANC on the importance of Afrikan unity and black solidarity as a pathway towards true liberation of the peoples of Afrika. The EFF has embraced, in terms of its cardinal pillars and political philosophy, Socialism, Black Consciousness and Pan Africanism.

The significance of the nine years of EFF in the political space has been aptly articulated by the leader of UDM, Bantu Holomisa, when he said the EFF could no longer be regarded as "the new kid on the block". I remember he had used this expression when congratulating them during their launch on that sunny day in Marikana in 2013.

He is right in that, nine years later, and in Parliamentary politics, the EFF is the third largest political party in the country and fairly the biggest on the Afrikan continent. And in the nine year-period, they have made huge strides in forcing the political discourse in our policy to include socialism, and therefore put issues such as land, nationalisation of mines and strategic sectors of the economy, and free quality education at the centre. Of course, this has effectively proved too many people, doom-sayers and pessimists, wrong that the "new kid on the block" would not last beyond a year.

In the process, the EFF leadership ensured that education and liberation politics became fashionable. My view, though, is that EFF should learn from the failures of the ANC, remain grounded in the people and guard against arrogance and loathe white monopoly capitalism. This needs tenacity and consistency, of course. Critically, the lodestar of the EFF should remain the ideal for uniting Afrikan people.

When the leader of the African Transformation Movement (ATM), Vuyo Zungula, told the EFF gathering in Mangaung that "without unity, we are just playing, " he hit the nail on the head as far as our struggle is concerned. I wrote elsewhere this weekend that the founder of the ANC, Pixley ka Isaka Seme, already in 1932, advised that "we shall be made slaves indeed unless we can unite and become a nation".

We are slaves today, as black people, because we are divided by the oppressor that manifests itself in the so-called democratic state as white monopoly capital. So, I see the future of the oppressed people in the unity and cooperation of all formations driven by African socialism, Pan Africanism and Black Consciousness.

Coming back to the already-referenced Phenomenon of the Cry (Sello), as personified by the CIC of the Economic Freedom Fighters, Sello Julius Malema, I would like to borrow from the President of EFF (Lesotho), Tefo Makhakhe, who said we need to acknowledge and embrace our Afrikan leaders whilst they are still alive. In due respect and honour of Malema, he said: "The CIC (Julius Malema) is our greatest gift in the African continent. It doesn't take a genius to see that no one is like him".

EFF leader Julius Malema. Picture: Timothy Bernard African News Agency (ANA)

I think this is a generously powerful statement to be made, only befitting to someone whose name could be associated with Fidel Castro'sCastro's 26 July Movement, Nkrumah's logic of economic freedom, the return of the stolen land to the dispossessed Afrikan people, free education and so forth. When assessing the contribution that people make to society, it is most useful to apply the theory of subtraction. Thus, we may ask ourselves: If Sello Julius Malema was not there if the EFF was not born on 26 July 2013, what would have become of this country? What kind of politicking would we be doing?

In responding to the question, "How would you want to be remembered?", Thomas Sankara said he would want to be remembered "as someone whose life has been helpful to humanity". On the other hand, Malcolm X said, "I want to be remembered as someone who was sincere. Even if I made mistakes, they were made in sincerity". But Malema is not Sankara, and he is not Malcolm X. He is "Sello", as alluded to earlier. But, it is proper that we pose this same question to Julius Malema whilst he is still alive. Truth, though, is: Ge ele ntwa yona o e lwele!

David Letsoalo is a Sankarist, an activist and Law academic.