Below are two articles written by Andile Mngxitama and Floyd Shivambu on 16 and 17 April 2015. These articles were written days after the announcement that 3 EFF members (Andile Mngxitama, Mpho Ramakatsa and Kanyisile Tshabalala) were expelled and Lucky Twala was suspended for 3 years from the party.
These two articles give readers insight into the direction EFF leadership wish to take the movement, as well as the fight inside and outside the EFF concerning the question “should EFF leadership be shielded from criticism for looting of party funds?”
Shivambu defends his right to buy and wear Louis Vuitton, drink expensive whiskey and drive the latest Porche, using party funds to sustain his lavish lifestyle. Even though his behavior emulates and celebrates the ‘oppressors’ lifestyle he claims to ultimately be fighting against, he argues that his need to eat is indeed a revolutionary act. In this regard Shivambu, and by extention EFF leadership, require lavish lifestyles (funded by public money) to create personal stability and organisational momentum that is needed to attack leaders of other political parties that live lavish lifestyles at the expense of public funds.
Shivambu points out that those who criticise leadership are the enemies of the people, regardless of the wrongs that leadership might be doing. To criticise leadership in the EFF is to kill the revolutionary momentum of the movement.
Andile Mngxitama argues instead that the structure of political organisations in South Africa and the structure of the Parliamentary system is oppressive in its very nature in that it reduces elected members to wage labourers that become afraid to criticize leadership because of fear of loosing their income and prestige of their positions. He says it steers elected leadership away from speaking for the people on the ground that elected them to instead speaking for the organisation that pays their salaries, the organisation being the President not the collective.
The debate continues should politicians and leaders BE LEFT TO LOOT OR NOT TO LOOT?
PARTY MEMBERS SHOULD BE FIRST TO CRITICISE IT.
Fear of punishment, such as the loss of jobs, prevents members of the Economic Freedom Fighters from challenging their leadership, says Andile Mngxitama. (Paul Botes, M&G)
17 Apr 2015 00:00 Andile Mngxitama
The Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) are facing increasing ideological and organisational crises. These pose yet again the ancient question of what organisational and leadership mix is required for the new revolution to advance.
One is tempted to say that the bulk of the challenges facing the EFF have to do with old political beliefs and practices that stand in the way of crafting new political identities suited to the challenges of doing radical politics today.
What complicates these developments is the anxiety to avoid being “another Cope” – meaning the self-destroying Congress of the People. This anxiety is shared by large sections of society, including the media. Ironically, it has the effect of silencing and paralysing, instead of opening up the imagination to develop appropriate responses to a new political culture. The demise of Cope has generated a political pathology that has not been properly diagnosed, and its hold on the new parties has not been subjected to sufficient analysis.
The closed culture of political organisations in South Africa is based on party unity, underpinned by fear of punishment from the top. It’s basically unity by fear. It’s a coercive system that suffocates internal dissent. Being a member of a political party means having to defend the party leadership at all costs. Essentially, to join a political organisation is to join a gang-like structure. Questioning is seen as disloyalty and is punished; overt defence of the party, even when it has wrong, is rewarded. The party becomes the personal property of the leader.
Our party-political system creates a politics of hypocrisy. One is encouraged to criticise other parties and hide the wrongdoing of one’s own party. This organisational culture is encouraged by the fact that the party is also the employer – and the party leader is the chief executive officer, with powers of appointment, promotion, demotion and expulsion.
When a new party such as the EFF gets into Parliament, a whole layer of people become direct financial beneficiaries. MPs earn salaries ordinary people can only dream of. Add to this the prestige of being an “honourable member” and you have an ambition-driven system.
Politicians are a quasi-class, one that derives its sustenance from association with formal political office. Its only objective is to reproduce itself through the manipulation of the suffering of the many and the promise of salvation after the revolution.
This method of abusing the destitute has been perfected by Pentecostal pastors who promise great returns if you “give to God” – they, of course, being God’s proxy on Earth. According to their gospel, one gives and obeys, then miracles happen. Surrendering to the big other is mandatory for the destitute if they are to hold on to hope.
The clutching on to the figure of the pastor, the leader, the messiah, explains what happens when the representative of God on Earth is found to have feet of clay – the masses turn their rage against the one exposing the lies or weaknesses of their messiah. The people are better off believing in something than being left with the existential bareness of the truth: that there is no messiah.
This creates an unethical relationship between the led and the leader. The unsaid agreement is cemented by the unspoken words: “Take us to the land of milk and honey and we shall do whatever you demand.”
These dynamics played themselves out when I was attacked at a press conference at the time of the State of the Nation address by a section of EFF members. Those who attacked me were mostly in the employ of the party; those who defended me were not dependent on the party for their sustenance.
The employed members can no longer follow their own consciences. They obey instructions or risk losing their jobs. This relationship of employer and employee, within a party system, corrupts all actions. It makes any action of party members questionable: are they acting out of belief or are they applying for a job?
The first question about organisational culture has to do with resolving this contradiction of social and economic differentiation within the same organisation – and the concentration at the top of the power to reward and punish. A different culture can only emerge with the opening up of decision-making on deployment, coupled with material gain not being linked to political office.
In an organisation that claims to be socialist, as the EFF does, it may be necessary to think about a minimum wage for all party functionaries and leaders. Such a wage must not be too out of kilter with the minimum wage demanded for mineworkers, for instance. If we wear the red overalls, surely we should live as close as possible to the reality?
Such sacrifices would only make sense in a culture of robust internal democracy and transparency. Such a move must also be coupled with lifestyle audits of the top leadership. Leaders must be assisted to live within their means. An MP has a free house in Cape Town – this should cover a range of big expenses. The rest of the money should be channelled back into the party to support programmes on the ground. Of course, this would only work if the party finances were transparent.
The idea is not to make leaders live an unnecessarily frugal life, but it is part of building a new political culture of robust internal dissent and robust accountability. Questioning and criticism must become prestigious for all in the party. Let members be the first to criticise their own party openly, then we will be on our way to a new revolutionary culture, where leaders are servants.
Leadership can be empowering as a unifying symbol, a repository of collective hopes in a way that does not mythologise the leader. A revolutionary leadership can help to clarify difficult situations and give direction in a time of crisis, such as the one we find ourselves in right now – as Africans are being attacked in Durban and other places. The servant-leadership style of Burkina Faso’s Thomas Sankara and the recently retired Uruguayan president, José Mujica, comes to mind.
A new political culture, driven by internal criticism, collective public accountability and a leadership resisting the urge of self-enrichment, accompanied by a confident and politically informed party membership, is the only way to prevent the reproduction of the inherently corrupt political culture that dominates all political parties today. We have come to see this as normal.
A new political culture is possible only if there is a commitment to a revolutionary process to change power, to turn it to working in the service of the many instead of the few. The leadership of any one party benefits from the status quo, and leaders become unwilling to take the difficult path of radical democracy. This new path must be forced into our politics or we will forever dwell in a politics of hypocrisy and lies.
MP Andile Mngxitama is challenging his expulsion from the EFF
EVERY REVOLUTION HAS ITS OWN BRUNO MTOLOS, TRAITORS OF THE TIME
16 April 2015 16:36 Floyd Shivambu
It is not a secret that the current generation of Economic Freedom Fighters is inspired by the freedom fighters of the early 1940s in the ANC-led liberation movement who, during the formation of the ANC Youth League, proclaimed “freedom in our lifetime”.
This generation of freedom fighters is indisputably the most outstanding generation of freedom fighters in South Africa, and possibly Africa and the world’s political history.
The early 1940s generation included giant figures such as Mxolisi Majombozi, Nelson Mandela, Walter Sisulu, Oliver Tambo, AP Mda, Robert Sobukwe, Congress Mbatha, Robert Resha, Anton Lembede and William Nkomo.
The outstanding features of this generation were:
» Ideological clarity in that they were able to give proper meaning to the struggle for national liberation and gave a clearer context and meaning of what is meant by African nationalism,
» Fearlessness and militancy, in that in everything they did, the resounding fearlessness was unparalleled as this is the generation that dared the apartheid regime through utter defiance of petty segregationist laws; and
» Unity in that, for many years, this generation understood and accepted that they carried a generational mission of “freedom in our lifetime”, literally meaning that they were determined to attain political freedom before they died.
The subjective contributions of Walter Sisulu, Oliver Tambo, Robert Sobukwe, and Nelson Mandela led to the defiance campaign, the Sharpeville and Langa uprisings, the Rivonia Trial, and massive internal solidarity programmes carried out by the world against apartheid. This, of course, is in recognition of the reality that, although objective conditions allow for revolutions to occur, the subjective revolutionary determination and will of those leading the revolution is also necessary to make the revolution occur.
Che Guevara said: “The revolution is not an apple that falls when it is ripe. You have to make it fall.” Like the current generation of economic freedom fighters, this was a generation that refused to fail.
Of course, the route towards freedom was not easy and was threatened by many developments: the life imprisonment of the freedom fighters and banishment/isolation of Sobukwe, depriving the Pan Africanist Congress of the necessary ideological and political guidance he could have provided.
The major disruption was the Rivonia Trial and its possibilities, as it could have culminated in either life imprisonment or the execution of these political giants.
During the trial, the whole world was persuaded that the ultimate sentence would be capital punishment, because the apartheid machinery was brutal and upping the gear in suppressing dissenting voices.
To secure the conviction of the Rivonia Triallists, the state needed evidence from the inside operations of the MK. Someone who came in handy was Bruno Mtolo, who was part of the Natal Regional Command.
Mtolo was an activist from KwaZulu-Natal and appeared more committed and determined than the rest of the freedom fighters in KwaZulu-Natal. He was considered one of the most outstanding cadres and fighters for liberation, and dedicated his life to the struggle for political freedom in our lifetime.
His generation never thought nor believed that he would ever define himself outside the struggles for the liberation of the people.
Despite these outstanding revolutionary qualities, Mtolo had his own subjective challenges and weaknesses, including his relationship with alcohol and personal financial problems.
This aspect of his life, like is the case with many freedom fighters across the African continent, had massive potential to undermine and trivialise his commitment to the struggle.
Mtolo was one of the founding members of Umkhonto weSizwe and was among the most trusted because he displayed a degree of commitment to the struggle for freedom in the lifetime of his generation of freedom fighters.
However, he sold out and testified against his comrades when they were arrested and indicted by the apartheid regime for treason, in what came to be known as the Rivonia Trial.
Mtolo also led a public campaign that undermined the leadership of the struggle for freedom in our lifetime.
In the Rivonia Trial and the interviews he gave afterwards, Mtolo’s complaint was that leaders of the struggle for freedom had clean and better houses, dressed in proper clothes, had cars, and had money to pay bail when arrested.
Because of these petty and aside complaints, Mtolo saw it fit to work for the apartheid regime and testified in the trial.
Were it not for massive international campaigns against the execution of political leaders, Mtolo would have secured the triallists’ execution by the racist, brutal apartheid regime.
If Bruno Mtolo had his way, Nelson Mandela and Walter Sisulu’s journey to freedom would have been terminated and told by the apartheid historians. These would possibly say that there once were disrupters who wanted to overthrow the government and were executed for challenging white and racist dominance of the black majority.
Society should know that there are traitors in all potentially successful revolutions.
This is also mentioned to illustrate that in certain historical conjunctures there are political beings who seem to narrowly believe that revolution means that revolutionaries should live in squalor and have nothing to self-sustain.
The notion that Economic Freedom Fighters and socialists should live in squalor should be dismissed with contempt and disdain.
Here is Mtolo, who lived on borrowed money and was reportedly always under the influence of affordable alcohol, but was never revolutionary. There are still such characters in our politics today, who liken untidiness and squalor with being revolutionary.
Of course conspicuous consumption and ostentation should never be encouraged among the leadership of Economic Freedom Fighters, yet stability is essential for all economic freedom fighters and the people of South Africa to fight for the emancipation of the people of the country, Africa and the world.
This informs the commitment of the EFF to create sustainable conditions for all our ground forces and activists and will do so for all, as and when we grow.
With relatively minute resources available from Parliamentary and Electoral Commission allocations, the EFF expends a substantial component of our resources providing strategic and necessary support to regional and provincial chairpersons and secretaries who are unemployed.
All members of the EFF in Parliament and provincial legislatures contribute a certain percentage of their salaries to the work of the organisation and remain with necessary resources to travel and contribute to organisational growth and development.
It is not a secret that the resources provided to members of Parliament are used for the necessary political work in various constituencies with the aim of growing the organisation.
Without structured support, often leaders of regions, provinces and national leaders fail to attend meetings and perform the necessary tasks.
Bruno Mtolos will never be in a position to understand this basic principle because of lack of ideological and political foresight.
It is essential that those with full-time responsibilities for the organisation are stable.
The first EFF national people’s assembly adopted resolutions to support cooperatives in order to guarantee consistent income for ordinary people – our members and leaders of the EFF at a local level.
The commitment from the assembly was that, because we are not yet the government and couldn’t implement a substantial component of our economic transformation resolutions, we should develop and support cooperatives that would economically empower ordinary people on the ground and capacitate our branches to perform their functions in a consistent and well-resourced fashion.
Bruno Mtolos would not understand this because of a lack of ideological foresight.
We have our own Bruno Mtolos, who see nothing wrong in delegitimising the EFF and its leaders in public discourse, causing divisions in the movement. This should never serve to discourage our determination to fight, it should instead inspire us to fight with determination, with an understanding that all revolutions have their own traitors.
Like Bruno Mtolo, the reactionaries of our time will be devoured by history and thrown into its dustbin, remembered as those who tried to derail and defocus the struggle for economic freedom.
If fighters believe that the struggle for economic freedom can be carried though and on a different platform, they are at liberty to do so and we will never be recalcitrant that they are fighting from a different platform.
There was a conspicuous sushi-eating Maverick in the EFF initial stages and he founded an ethnic-based political party, targeted at coloured people. As the EFF, we carried on.
Internal destabilisation and disinformation in the EFF is totally inappropriate and reactionary, and something that will never succeed. It amounts to joining hands with our primary enemy (white monopoly capital) and their representatives (ANC and Democratic Alliance), and should therefore be treated as such. The remedy is the application of decisive and revolutionary code of conduct, and that is exactly what the EFF did in the recent past.
Floyd Shivambu is deputy president of the Economic Freedom Fighters.