EFF popularity thrives on back of jobless and uneducated youth

EFF deputy president Floyd Shivambu and president Julius Malema at a media briefing on allegations that the party and Shivambu benefited from the VBS bank looting.
EFF deputy president Floyd Shivambu and president Julius Malema at a media briefing on allegations that the party and Shivambu benefited from the VBS bank looting.
Image: Gallo Images/Felix Dlangamandla

A few days after the EFF was formed, I was invited to debate its radical platform with its leader Julius Malema on an e.tv breakfast show.

In the off-camera banter, our TV anchor smiled and teased Malema: "Julius, they say it is cold outside the ANC. Is it true?" Malema giggled: "Ha ha ha. we are trying to make it warm." And that was the end of the small talk.

Since then, the EFF went on to become an influential player in South African politics. The party shook up parliament by introducing uncanny theatrics, such as red overalls and clownish drama.

So influential did the EFF become that people in the ANC who wanted the public to know secrets leaked them to Malema. And thus the young man's tweets acquired a status not very dissimilar to the biblical book of Revelations.

From the beginning, the EFF was blessed with gifted propagandists. They engineered public psychology to regard their party as an anti-corruption crusader. In this crafty public relations game, Jacob Zuma was eaten like manna from heaven.

The EFF also understood that more than two decades of democracy in SA had produced a large reservoir of uneducated, jobless young black people who were disgruntled with the ANC. Thus the party invented tantalising slogans for the disillusioned: nationalisation of mines, land expropriation without compensation and so on.

Suddenly the hopeless felt like they had a new voice. In his classic, The Crowd: The Study of the Popular Mind, Gustave Le Bon writes: "In crowds the foolish, ignorant, and envious persons are freed from the sense of their insignificance and powerlessness, and are possessed instead by the notion of . temporary but immense strength."

And so the EFF caused young people to walk around with inflated chests, brandishing red berets as a symbol of their imaginary strength. They felt as though their new party had bestowed upon them power to bring down the smallest traces of established authority.

The minds of the masses were washed clean, viewing Malema in a new likeable light. The party's well-choreographed melodrama worked like bleach, cleaning all previous knowledge about Malema out of memory.

The most important knowledge the EFF propagandists targeted for complete erasure is Malema's history of corruption. The masses were made to forget that this is the same man who looted public money with his friend Cassel Mathale until the finances of Limpopo province literally collapsed.

His company On-Point amassed government tenders in the province.

Floyd Brink, a former Limpopo department of transport official who was arrested for allegedly assisting Malema's On-Point to loot, has recently been planted by the EFF in the City of Johannesburg as chief operations officer. You can imagine what will happen to municipal money there.

In his heyday, Malema was so showy stories circulated that the boot of his car was always full of cash.

Some of the stories may be over-dramatised, but the legend of Malema and tender money reached far and wide. What we know is that the head of the young man ballooned with arrogance, insulting old people at will.

As Malema was doing all this, Floyd Shivambu always hovered around. They drove luxury cars together, lived in Sandton mansions together, and bought Louis Vuitton shoes together.

This gaudy life suddenly came tumbling down the moment Malema had a fallout with the bigger crook in the ANC, Zuma - leading to their expulsion.

When Malema told an e.tv anchor that "we are trying to make it warm," he was being hopeful that, someday, the EFF would be so powerful as to bring back the lavish lifestyle they enjoyed.

The shocking revelations of looting at VBS, and the allegations of the EFF and Shivambu's involvement in the sordid affair, suggest it is now warm outside the ANC.

Having been in the cold together, are we to expect Malema and Shivambu not to defend each other?

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