Ramaphosa presidency makes the EFF much more relevant

South Africa's current deputy President, Cyril Ramaphosa.
File: South Africa's current President, Cyril Ramaphosa.

Guest Column by Dimo Mariri

Following the swearing in of Cyril Ramaphosa as the new president of South Africa, some pundits have claimed that the EFF will become irrelevant. President Ramaphosa is being portrayed as an anti-thesis of Jacob Zuma. There is a presumption that he is committed to a clean governance and that he is more competent to run the state than Zuma was because of his credentials as a successful business man, union activist and a qualified lawyer.

So, because the EFF was more vociferous in opposing the corruption, mal-administration and incompetence associated with Zuma’s government, some people think the EFF’s vocation is over. Not only are these commentators mistaken, but their lack of understanding of the ideological underpinnings of the EFF is exposed.

In fact, the EFF will need Ramaphosa to excel in his role in order for them to shine. Zuma, while he aided their great performance in parliament through his unending scandals, was in fact a distraction to the EFF project.

The EFF fills a gap that has been widening since the dawn of democracy and which ought to have been filled by the PAC, AZAPO, SACP or any strong left-leaning political party. The SACP is subsumed in ANC-led alliance, governing politics and the PAC and AZAPO are as good as dead.

This leaves the EFF as the only formidable political party ideologically opposed to the ANC’s political and economic trajectory. The ANC has been accused by various commentators of the leftist school of thought as a sell-out organization that has abandoned its pre-democratic goals of land repossession, nationalization of the economy and of basically betraying the aspirations of the historically oppressed black majority in favour of a neo-liberal politics that promotes foreign investment, private ownership and exploitation of the country’s natural resources at the expense of its own people.

Ramaphosa, as someone who in the past left politics to pursue business and in the process made a good fortune for himself, is a quintessential example of that “sell out” leadership. He is what Marxists would call a petit-bourgeois.

But also, it is believed that while it purports to promote free trade, to promote entrepreneurship and to create jobs and increase the capacity of the national fiscus, one of the natural consequences of the free market economy is inequality, especially in a country like ours where many people don’t have the skills to participate meaningfully in a capitalistic economy.

We saw this under president Mbeki where while at some point inequality continued to widen during a period of sustained economic growth. During that time, the country experienced a plethora of community protests.

If president Ramaphosa’s government is not going to ban labour brokers; expropriate the land and resettle many of the people currently living in squatta camps on good land, in humane conditions; provide water and electricity to rural areas that still don’t have basic services; provide free education; subsidize local farmers; compel mining companies to contribute in a meaningful way to the infrastructural and economic challenges of the communities in which they operate; deracialize economic ownership and ensure an increase of black-owned businesses at the JSE; deal decisively with corruption in the private sector and; ruthlessly fight racism among other things, then all those who think the EFF will become redundant are dreaming. These issues make the EFF relevant because the ANC and the DA  have both failed to prioritize them.

But because Cyril Ramaphosa is sophisticated unlike Zuma, and because he is likely to appoint competent individuals to positions of leadership, what’s going to be demanded of the EFF is to raise the level of debate. Under Zuma, parliament was characterized by howling, giggling and gyrating. Ndlozi and Shivambu are the only ones who have occasionally shown signs of brilliance in their deliveries. We should see a lot more improved quality of debate from the ANC, DA, and EFF this year.