Thursday, January 29, 2015

The Economic Freedom Fighters fight over their overalls

The Economic Freedom Fighters fiercest fight, the party insists, is going to be to keep their red overalls on in the national assembly.

There are media reports that, failing that, EFF members will go naked. Perhaps that is journalistic licence, a fickle media's dig at their recent darlings, now their over exposed 'new kids on the block' are starting to look as if they may be running out of road - or at least running out of headline-catching gimmicks, which detractors say is the same thing in the EFF's case.

Parliament should never have allowed the EFF to turn up in what is party uniform in the first place. The concession was profoundly mistaken, either patronising or cowardly of the house. It flouts an institution that is supposed to represent all the people of South Africa and to work, in spite of great differences, for the collective good, not to divide the country's citizens into 'class enemies'. 

The red overalls signalled danger clearly enough. Their extravagance and the even more extravagant claims made for their symbolism - that the EFF speak uniquely for 'the poor' - secures publicity for the EFF rather than any benefits for the poor or, for that matter, 'answers' about the Nkandla scandal. Nkandla is a public disgrace for the African National Congress, a democratic party and government, without the need for theatre.

EFF overalls and rowdiness are not bringing the ANC to heel. They have merely provided sensational material to a media starved of more worthwhile opposition to report. Most dangerous of all, EFF conduct is increasing the chances of an authoritarian response from a jittery majority party that has always been out of temper with opposition and is inclined to overreact to it.

SA has a great and testing objective to pursue. The country and its diverse people are attempting to become a democracy under a constitution widely acknowledged for its enlightened liberalism.

Even if the ANC are clumsily throwing their weight about in the early stages of the project, it should be countered by constitutional process. The only people to profit from anarchy are the instigators of anarchy.