The Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) will certainly mark 2019 as the year of growth. That’s after the party showed significant growth at the May poll.
While the party spent the 2019 advocating for the poor, there’s been reports and allegations that some leaders benefited from the VBS Mutual Bank scandal; a charge the party denies.
The EFF concluded its national conference with an election of new leadership for another five years.
From 6.3% of the national vote in 2014, the party gained 10.7% of the vote in the 2019 general elections. Party leader Julius Malema attributed the good result to the party’s ground forces who preached the party’s manifesto door to door crisscrossing the country.
Parliament was a different ball game for the firebrand party in 2019. Former President Jacob Zuma was gone and the party now had its sights on another African National Congress (ANC) politician; Public Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan, accusing him of being a proxy to white monopoly capital. Ironically, it’s the same politician they once defended against former President Zuma.
Gordhan took the matter to the Equality court, alleging the remarks amounted to hate speech. The Minister lost the matter in October and the EFF continued to up the ante.
But this was not the only focus of the EFF; they took a swipe at a number of media organisations and journalists, accusing them to be bias in their coverage of the party. Yet another court battle lead by the South African National Editors Forum (SANEF) ensued after Malema likened a group of journalists to apartheid spies.
The EFF came out unscathed in that court battle.
The VBS scandal which broke in 2018 haunted the EFF in 2019. Media reports alleged some of the lost money which collapsed the bank made its way into the pockets of some party leaders. Several journalists including those who wrote stories that implicated the EFF leadership in the VBS scandal, prompted the party to deny them access to the recently concluded National People’s Assembly, a move that was seen as unconstitutional and a threat to media freedom.
But Malema is unrepentant and unapologetic.
Malema also had to answer to other more cases regarding more physical assault, including allegedly discharging a firearm at a party rally in East London in 2018. Malema also had to respond to his involvement of an alleged assault of a police officer at the funeral of the late struggle icon Winnie Mandela’ funeral.
But since its formation, the red berets have been cruising; growing beyond the borders of South Africa. Another high for the party, its affiliated party in the neighbouring Namibia won two seats in the country’s parliament.
The EFF has already declared the year 2020 as year of action and accountability. The party is sure to continue ruffling feathers in the build-up to local government elections.