Daily Maverick (Johannesburg)

23 July 2014

South Africa: Op-Ed - Economic Freedom Fighters' Politics of Dress

analysis

In a barren political environment, the EFF has understood the power of symbolism, using dress to dramatise their entry into Parliament. Through constant reference to the Marikana massacre, Nkandla and related abuse, they have linked themselves to the fate of the poor and vulnerable.

In entering Parliament in boiler suits and overalls they followed a long tradition of political agitation, through using imagery to convey their message. By adopting the colour red they appropriated associations with the blood of workers, as well as the colour historically linked with socialists and communists.

The ANC has not been able to call the EFF's bluff, because in reality, they themselves abandoned the terrain of popular politics. They cannot unmask the EFF as demagogues or populists for they themselves make promises they do not fulfil.

Instead, the ANC relies on colonial imagery, what is appropriate dress for important places not intended to accommodate riff raff. Consequently the EFF have been attacked for disrespect or ejected, sometimes with serious injuries for wearing overalls or domestic workers' clothes. Their dress has been described as ill-mannered, comparable to lacking respect for their grandmothers. Given that most people in higher echelons of government and Parliament...

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