05/05/2014. EFF Commander in Chief Julias Malema during his first visit at the IEC National Results Operation Centre in Pretoria. Picture: Oupa Mokoena

The impressive performance by the new kid on the political scene raises some questions, says Jovial Rantao.

Johannesburg - So Julius Malema has made a mark on the political landscape. Just over a year after he was expelled from a party he joined as a youngster, Malema has taken on President Jacob Zuma and the ANC at their game and, while he did not win and had no hope for victory, he has made quite an impressive start.

Malema’s party the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) has garnered enough votes to make it the third biggest political party in the country. There is no doubt that they were the phenomenon of this year’s elections.

They caught the attention of most South Africans, not only because of the personalities involved, but because of their interest and bold policy positions.

They attracted South Africans because Malema had portrayed himself as the only political leader bold enough to stand up to President Jacob Zuma and the ANC.

It is quite telling that the EFF has done better than other established opposition parties such as the United Democratic Movement, Cope and others.

The impressive performance by the new kid on the political scene, makes for interesting reading. It also raises some questions.

That the EFF was able to attract so many people to vote for it in its short lifespan, speaks directly to the abilities of Malema, Floyd Shivambu and the entire leadership, to organise and mobilise people behind their cause.

We have to look at the figures and wonder what the EFF could have done had they had more time to prepare for elections.

The elections results also say something about the voter.

Why would voters flock to the EFF, a party led by a man who lacks integrity and is in court facing allegations of fraud and corruption?

Did those people who voted for the EFF do so because they truly believed in the policies of the party and its leadership or did they opt for Malema and Co. because their party represented the best alternative to the ANC?

The votes the EFF attracted were more of an anti-Zuma statement than a response to what the EFF itself stands for.

The EFF also attracted many people who, while angry at the ANC for whatever reason, find themselves unable to vote for the DA, a party which is still considered white.

This is despite the best effort by the DA leader to transform the party and present it as a new, black-dominated party.

For these people, Malema, Shivambu, Dali Mpofu and others have been in the belly of the beast and know best how the beast can be tamed. These are former ANC members, who played some leadership roles and would be expected to know how best the dominance of the party of Nelson Mandela, Oliver Tambo and Walter Sisulu can be diluted.

I have been quite surprised at the calibre of people who have joined and publicly speak about their love for the EFF.

These people include professionals who, one has to think, would have properly evaluated Malema as an individual and a leader as well as the policies of the EFF before taking the decision to give their support.

For some of these people, the EFF represents the best vehicle to take on the ANC by swelling the opposition ranks and reducing the dominance of the governing party.

This strategy is one that many democrats will embrace.

A less dominant ANC, kept on its toes by the opposition, will be forced to deliver better services to all of us because it will be in competition with the opposition parties.

This development, when and if it happens, will make our democracy vibrant. It will make politicians less arrogant and more accountable to the citizens.

The EFF has not taken any votes from the ANC. Its rise has meant the demise of smaller political parties such as Cope, a party they have now replaced as the third biggest party.

Cope has been made to pay for its failure to build itself into an alternative to the ANC.

It has failed to deal decisively with its leadership squabbles and this has had a devastating effect on its performance as a viable opposition party.

* Jovial Rantao is the editor of the Sunday Independent

Sunday Independent