Cheered up, fired up: EFF launches election manifesto

Henry

With an increase in support and efforts to become South Africa’s leading political party, the radical EFF kicked off its election campaign in Durban on Saturday.

Dozens of buses, packed with EFF supporters, have been arriving in Durban since early morning, where instigator Julius Malema is launching the party’s election manifesto.

Young people waved party flags from the windows, while hundreds of people in the 55,000-seat stadium sang and danced to the music.

Food, water and sanitary napkins were distributed, while there was a rush for the red party T-shirts that were distributed. Street vendors with meat, refreshments and party souvenirs fill the streets around the stadium.

The EFF is known for the uproar it can kick up and the party is winning support based on the promise of radical reform that includes the redistribution of land and the nationalization of key sectors, such as the mining industry.

“Malema is popular because he has risen as someone who openly challenges authority because they have failed to liberate black people,” says independent political analyst Sandile Swana.

Durban as a choice to start the campaign is also worth mentioning. The port city in KwaZulu-Natal is South Africa’s second most densely populated city and a crucial election point.

The ruling ANC will launch its own election manifesto in exactly the same place in two weeks.

“It is nice that the EFF has decided on KwaZulu-Natal this time, because political parties usually choose other provinces. This time everyone wants to be here,” says 41-year-old Nompumelelo Nhlapo.

Malema (42) founded the EFF in 2013 after he was kicked out of the ANC, where he was the youth leader. He was accused of sowing division and bringing the party’s name into disrepute.

Support for the EFF has been growing since then, mainly among young, black South Africans who are disillusioned and angry about widespread poverty and unemployment.

“I am a member of the EFF and the party has a brave leader who is not afraid to expose the truth and cares about creating job opportunities for young people,” says Mnqondisi Nkosi, a 24-year-old tourism student.

“The manifesto is important to us, because before the election we need to know which direction we are going to take as a party.”

They left at 03:00, but the EFF provided everything they needed for the journey – food, water and sanitary napkins. “We are well looked after,” she says.

The militant party specifically targets universities and young voters and has won several student elections in recent years, while also enlisting celebrities and influencers to help spread its message.

“The EFF has formed an identity as a party of young intellectuals and thinkers who campaign for the formal education of black people,” says Swana.

Some opinion polls suggest that the EFF may even unseat the DA as official opposition.

A recent Ipsos poll put the two parties’ support at between 17% and 20%.

In the past few years, the DA has worked hard to attract black voters and has joined hands with several other parties with the Multiparty Charter in the hope of kicking out the ANC as government.

However, the party refuses to cooperate with the EFF.

The ANC has ruled since 1994, but may lose its parliamentary majority for the first time this year with a reputation tarnished by corruption and mismanagement.

Polls show that the ANC may only attract 40% of the vote – something that will force the party to form a coalition if it wants to wield the scepter of government from now on.