At first sight, the results for national and provincial elections in South Africa may suggest that little has changed. The ANC still got more than 60% of the national vote (despite its poor leadership); the largest parliamentary opposition party, the Democratic Alliance, did not significantly increase its share of the national vote (it is still very much a regional party governing the Western Cape province, though it made significant gains in Johannesburg); and most smaller centrist black parties (AGANG of former World Bank deputy governor Mamphela Ramphele or the Congress of the People) will fade away. But one new entrant, the Economic Freedom Fighters of Julius Malema (a former ANC youth leader who once was a close ally of President Jacob Zuma) surprised everyone:

It’s 5 odd percent (at last count) of the vote gives it at least 23 seats in the National Assembly.  Everyone wants to buy their election memorabilia and, more importantly, they will now be the “official opposition” in the provincial legislatures of the North West and Limpopo provinces.  They also scored FOUR votes in the white separatist private town of Orania (Google it).  We’ve written about the EFF and Julius Malema before. There’s a whole archive here. Of that batch, we can especially recommend Benjamin Fogel’s piece from November last year: “Julius Malema’s Economic Freedom Fighters and the South African Left.” Then there’s the work of Kwanele Sosibo, who also writes for the Mail & Guardian. It’s especially his pieces in the The Con: one, on the launch of the EFF and, two, his interview with Andile Mngxitama, who acts as a sort of political commissar of the EFF.

Most recently, there’s Imran Garda’s excellent documentary (in two parts), filmed the week Mandela died, which gets to the heart of EFF’s appeal as well as its current limitations as a political and ideological force. We’ve linked to the full videos below, but Imran (an honorary citizen of Africa is a Country who’s made mischief on the blog before) cut a shorter version on election day that highlights his interviews and interactions (at times humorous, but illuminating) with EFF activists and with Malema himself. It’s well worth watching:

It’s well worth checking out the longer version of the reports here: Part 1 and Part 2.

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Sean Jacobs

Otherwise known as Hasan Wasan.

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2 thoughts on “Admit it, you didn’t expect the Economic Freedom Fighters to do so well

  1. The EFF did make a good splash. It will be interesting if they can discipline themselves into a serious far-left party or if they will continue to be the rowdy home for the angry, young, and unemployed of whom there are many (as their vote count shows) in SA.

    You dismiss the DA’s gains rather blithely. To go from a party that had nearly zero black voters to one that now counts 20% of its supporters as black is an accomplishment that if it continues to gain support will make it a black majority (or at least sizable minority) party in the not too distant future (10-15 years?). Its a big if of course. Time will tell.

    To expect the ANC to lose its majority while the generation that actually defeated Apartheid is still alive and in power is silly. But steady declines (2009 and now 2014) lead one to believe that in the next 10/15 years the ANC will lose power if it doesn’t change course. The younger black generations simply are not going to care (for better or for worse) about the struggle as much as did previous generations and the ANC is steadily grinding down its political capital based on those credentials.

    It is interesting (and a little depressing) that SA seems to be slowly moving towards a two-party system ala the US rather than towards a more European mult-party coalition building type democracy. The EFF might upset that, but none of the other smaller parties look to be viable atm.

  2. EFF did well compared to how short their duration on the political scene is, the negative slack they were getting pre-election time and so forth. However, let’s wait for the next election, only then will we know whether EFF was an over night project or they’re here to stay.

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