By Reginald Makgoba
His reputation as the voice of the poor might have been marred by the allegations of corruption and fraud but the Economic Freedom Fighters leader Julius ‘Juju’ Malema seems to have found a strong voice that resonates with the hopes of many young South Africans as well as those gatvol with the African National Congress (ANC).
The ANC youth former leader believes that it is high time that ordinary people benefit from their democracy and get access to the country’s wealth and minerals. But whether this is an authentic promise, since Malema is himself alleged to have amassed large sums of money from government tenders, remains to be seen.
His new party, which he formed after he was sacked by the ANC for ‘bringing the organisation into disrepute and sowing divisions’ among its ranks, promises a radical approach to address the ever raising gap between the whites and blacks.
The party’s manifesto raises issues that have been either ignored or dismissed as infeasible by the ruling government. Among them is the issues of nationalisation of mines and land reform. The question of land which was despoiled from blacks during colonisation regimes in African countries has been seen as a no-go area and has become one of contentious issues since the dawn of democracy. Hence, the EFF is advocating for land expropriation without compensation.
Many pan-Africanists accuse the ruling party of adopting weak policies that sought to perpetuate white capitalism and supremacy and that it is doing nothing to redress the legacy of apartheid. Although the ANC maintains that the constitution does not permit expropriation of land without compensation, there is no iota of doubt that the willing buyer, willing seller principle has been a resounding failure as a many commercial land is still largely owned by whites and the government cannot afford to buy this land from them. And the thing about the constitution is that it is replete with abstract terms and concepts which the economically powerful are able take advantage of in satisfying their selfish needs.
The areas of land and mines have been identified by the EFF as key towards ameliorating blacks from poverty and underdevelopment. But many critics have denounced the party’s approach as unrealistic and as seeking to entrench racial divisions between whites and blacks in the country. The way in which the Western media has subjectively and negatively reported over Zibambwe’s land programme makes it even harder for many people to believe that land expropriation without compensation is a wise move to drive inclusive economy development – for many people who are against this approach cite Zimbabwe as a prime example of a failing policy. However, the land issue in Zimbabwe might have been misrepresented by the Western media, especially BBC and CNN that seek to cover up for the fact that the British and the Americans as well as Australians have vested interests over issues of natural resources in Africa.
Above all, the issues raised by the EFF are fairly genuine and political freedom cannot be useful if it does not guarantee the people economic freedom, that is, the ability to participate sufficiently in different sectors of the economy. Whether EFF policies can rescue the country from mammoth problems such as unemployment, crime, poverty and diseases is another thing. As a new kid on the block, asking whether the party would have the capacity and ability to lead the country seems so premature and overboard. To many a people their issues conjure up with hope and change.
Explicably, the government has not only been struggling with adopting pragmatic policies but has been failing to deal with the scourge of corruption and maladministration.
Terence Nombembe, South Africa’s Auditor-General, has recently reported that the government has wasted over R30 billion through corruption and wasteful expenditure. This is not only a cause for concern but a curse to the poor and a reason for voters to consider investing their hopes in other parties. More often than not, many culprits found to have misused government money only get a slap on the waist while poverty continues to engulf the lives of ordinary citizens.
Accountability is not synonymous with the ANC government. To a cite a few examples, the president did not act when the Department of Basic Education failed to deliver textbooks largely in Limpopo province and other rural parts of the country. The police killed over thirty people during the Marikana massacre but there was no one held accountable for this horror. It is really hard to expect a sensible decision to come from the man who has the grey cloud over his head for fighting off facing charges of corruption and money laundering and Racketeering.
It is just imaginable for the government to make wise decisions when ministers have joined forces to destabilise the public protector, Thuli Madonsela. She has adopted a no nonsense approach towards corruption and has executed her duties with the greatest aplomb. But the government is less impressed by this. The decision by the various ministers to obtain a court interdict to stop Madonsela from releasing her Nkandla report exemplifies how things have gone astray in Mandela’s country. The Zuma administration is primarily responsible for rewriting the core tenets of the ruling party and African values where friendship and self-interest come ahead of issues that are of particular public interest. It is unimaginable how corrupt individuals continue to survive the wrath of the law while they have wrongly benefited from taxpayers’ money in a country tormented by unemployment, poverty, and AIDS.
There have been a number of cabinet reshuffles that do nothing to increase government efficiency, but only ensures that those disagreeing with President Jabob Zuma pay the ultimate political price. Being freed from the caprices and whims of colonialism can no longer been used to fool the people to vote for the movement. There is so much to ponder for young people, born after and in 1994, as they prepare or become eligible to cast their votes for the first time. Many young people are gatvol with the ruling party for failing to deliver its promises but whether their anger will translate into votes for other parties is yet to be seen. The majority of the youth who turned up for the EFF launch and support its leader receives throughout his trial is one example that the ANC has began losing its traction.
While corruption continues to leave the movement with scars and wounds of downfall, it is also hard to drink clean water that comes from a well located next to sewage disposal. It is all doom and gloom that require sombre voters to turn the country in a prosperous direction. There is so much to ponder for the born-frees: whether to vote for the party that has been badly tainted by acts of corruption or to vote for the EFF whose leader is also facing the wrath of the law over tax invasion and over allegations of corruption. There is some much to think about for first timers over whether to vote for the Democratic Alliance which has the heritage of oppressing the black community or entrenching white supremacy.
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