South Africa: EFF - On a Path of Growth

Voting day in the 2014 general election, Paradyskloof, Stellenbosch, South Africa.

In every poll that attempted to predict the 2019 general elections outcome, the EFF was the only party that was expected to increase its share of the votes - the only difference was the size of the growth.

In the ANC's and DA's own independent research and internal analyses, the EFF's support almost doubled from the 6.35% it garnered in 2014 - just months after coming into existence.

The party, whose leaders were often at loggerheads with high-profile media figures on social media and in the press, focused on hosting smaller community activations, primarily over weekends in the run-up to the polls.

The party's savvy use of social media platforms - and its sizeable following, especially on Twitter - led the their use of #MCM (man crush Monday), #WCW (women crush Wednesday) and #EFFRedFridays trending.

In terms of policy issues, it looked at the land question, inequality and an economy which isn't growing fast enough to create sustainable job opportunities.

While the party is expected to grow, it has been beset by negative claims related to the collapse of VBS Mutual Bank and the controversial GladAfrica tender in the City of Tshwane.

Eyewitness News reported that the SA National Civic Organisation (Sanco) called on the Public Protector to probe the EFF's involvement in the tender.

It has also faced criticism from political opponents and commentators due to several incidents involving its members and some labelled the organisation "fascist" - something the party denies.

Political underdogs

From the very beginning, the EFF was the underdog. Very little was expected from the party, which is made up of mostly ex-ANC Youth League members who were meant to be written off.

Its members made it to Parliament in red overalls and hard hats.

Their antics in Parliament included the infamous "pay back the money" chant aimed at former President Jacob Zuma over the Public Protector's findings that he benefited unduly when his private home Nkandla received non-security upgrades that the taxpayer paid for.

The party's MPs also showed a keen understanding of the rules governing the National Assembly and many played key roles in portfolio committees.

While saying that it wants to attract both young and old, the party has found strong appeal among young people.

The party has a youthful energy, uses social media keenly and its leaders are seen to carry the aspirations that speak to what young people in the country are demanding.

Sometimes dubbed "champagne socialists" for their lavish lifestyles and expensive clothes, their supporters are quick to point out that no one else speaks to the lived experience of the middle class or black professionals.

As its leaders often articulate the many frustrations associated with gaining economic freedom and moving up the social and professional ladders, many young people have expressed that they find the party more relatable than many of its political counterparts.

Many commentators have noted that the EFF has exposed the ANC's inability to think or act fast, and many voters may see the red berets less as outright leaders and more as a force to hold the government of the day accountable for its actions.

Malema, speaking about his own party's growth prospects, told News24 last week that its ability to fill arenas would translate significant support at the polls.

Beyond wanting to garner "51% plus" he said the EFF also had its eyes set on taking the North West and Limpopo provinces.

"We want to take Gauteng, Limpopo and North West. In Limpopo and the North West, they used to speak arrogantly and unashamedly say we would never take those provinces, but we are going to take over those provinces," Malema told News24.

Source: News24

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