The new kid on the block

Admit you didn't expect the Economic Freedom Fighters or EFF, a breakaway from the ANC, to do so well in South Africa's latest elections.

A group of men at a cultural ceremony in Limpopo Province, where Malema is from (Darren Smith, via Flickr CC).

At first sight, the results for national and provincial elections in South Africa may suggest that little has changed. And that is a reasonable inside. 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 (the liberal AGANG of former World Bank deputy governor Mamphela Ramphele or the kneejerk Congress of the People, a sort of ANC lyte) will fade away. But it is the new entrant, the Economic Freedom Fighters of Julius Malema (a former ANC youth leader who once was a close ally of President Jacob Zuma), that has surprised everyone.

It’s little over 5 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 historian Benjamin Fogel’s post from November last year on this site: “Julius Malema’s Economic Freedom Fighters and the South African Left.” Then there’s the work of journalist 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, I can also recommend journalist Imran Garda’s excellent documentary program for Al Jazeera that was filmed during the week Mandela died. The irreverent clips 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 Africa Is a Country in the past) 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 is worth watching. It’s also worth checking out the longer version of the reports here: Part 1 and Part 2.

Further Reading

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