The post-apartheid SA legislative landscape continued to make laws that served the interests of former colonisers and a few white capitalists until the election of the EFF to parliament in 2014. The EFF has used its presence in legislative bodies such as parliament, provincial legislatures and municipal councils to effectively change the legislative landscape.
The EFF participated in the 2014 national and provincial elections and received 6.35% of the vote, which translated to 61 public representatives. These public representatives comprised 31 members of parliament. In the 2016 general local government elections, the EFF received 8.25% of the votes, an increase in all provinces, and this translated to 827 councillors in 221 of the 237 municipal councils.
These people are trusted ground forces who carry the hope and inspiration of the masses to change their conditions, including through legislative changes. The first motion tabled for debate by the EFF was for fair remuneration of mineworkers, a motion inspired by the brave workers of Marikana.
In the motion, we spoke of how the dawn of democracy had not really changed the lives of many mineworkers. The EFF motion effectively meant that, for the first time in the history of post-apartheid SA, workers had a voice in parliament that went against the wishes of the white capitalist establishment.
SA remains an incomplete transition from a violent past. The colonial and apartheid governments institutionalised violence through various forms of legislation. To this day, SA, as a constitutional democracy, still has apartheid legislation meant for segregation and racial hatred, exploitation, and suppression of black people.
In November 2016, the EFF moved a motion for the National Assembly to refer all pre-1994 legislation still in existence that may not adhere to constitutional principles and values to relevant committees in order to repeal such laws. Despite the ruling party’s resistance, we now know there are more than 2,000 apartheid laws, petty and substantial, that must be repealed.
But it was in the land discourse that the EFF changed the legislative landscape in a way many would never have thought was either practical or achievable.
The National Assembly passed a motion tabled by EFF president and commander in chief Julius Malema to have section 25 of the constitution amended to allow land expropriation without compensation. The EFF motion was debated by the National Assembly and received support from a majority of parties. The motion said that parliament should set up an ad hoc committee to look into the proposed change and hold public hearings.
It was the first time since the transition to democracy that ordinary South Africans had an opportunity to make their views heard with regard to land struggles and landlessness. While the motion was hijacked by reactionary elements, our people know that their struggles for land remains ongoing and for now, it will need legislative changes. Our people know they remain poor, marginalised and excluded from being productive participants in the economy.
There are many practical, quantitative and qualitative contributions made by the EFF in parliament, including the introduction of private member bills. The EFF introduced the Banks Amendment Bill to allow for the creation of a state bank; Health Amendment Bill to allow clinics to operate 24/7; and the SA Reserve Bank Amendment Bill to nationalise the central bank. These are laws intended to transform the legislative landscape and also provide practical change to the lives of our people.
In many municipalities, security guards, cleaners and other general workers are appointed by contractors and service providers who exploit them without decent salaries and job security. The EFF, through its councillors in various municipal councils, tabled motions for the insourcing of workers. Consequently, because of the EFF intervention, workers were insourced and paid decent salaries with benefits such as pension and medical aid benefits.
It is undisputable that the EFF has indeed changed the legislative landscape of SA. The EFF’s push to change the legislative landscape is out of recognition that the colonial and apartheid regimes could discriminate, oppress, and exploit black people through laws. It must be the very same legislative changes that should unshackle the chains of colonialism and apartheid.
• Mente is the EFF’s national chairperson and a member of parliament