By Verashni Pillay, 11 June 2014
A restructuring of the EFF in Gauteng that has seen alleged critics of leader Julius Malema ousted has revealed some cracks in the fledgling party.
Julius Malema has been accused of betraying his movement and sidelining those critical of him within the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF), ahead of the party’s elective conference.
A number of EFF members have cried foul after their leader removed key leaders in Gauteng at a meeting in Braamfontein on Tuesday evening, as part of a nationwide restructuring.
Now they are complaining of a return to a dictatorial bent within the leader, who received flack in his previous position as head of the ANC Youth League for similar tactics.
A member of a regional command team (RCT) in Gauteng told the Mail & Guardian that Malema and his preferred leaders were betraying the party’s original mandate and removing those that are calling them out for it.
The party has weak internal democracy given how quickly it formed. It never held internal elections and all structures have been appointed instead of elected. Now as the party gears up for its first national elective conference by the end of the year, jostling has started for key positions.
“We might remove them at conference,” said the member. “Because they know: they changed the mandate. Now they are accepting things from government as parliamentarians: the cars, the houses, the food. The EFF mandate said that must not happen, if you get paid you must buy your own house, but now they have changed.”
Malema has emphasised that refusing these benefits as parliamentarians was not part of the party’s original mandate until it was in government.
EFF spokesperson Mbuyiseni Ndlozi said the restructuring was “purely organisational” and aimed at improving the overall functioning of the fledgling party’s structures across the board.
“We are entering a different stage of the process and we thought 16 people per committee is adequate with proper geographic spread and gender balance,” Ndlozi told the M&G.
Some sources said this did not make sense as one member of the provincial command team (PCT), Maxwell Mothlake, was removed to be replaced in his portfolio of economic development by Ntobeng Ntobeng, who is reportedly roughly the same age, gender and from the same region.
Ndlozi said the shifting around of portfolios was inevitable after the team had been trimmed. Malema told the M&G that the performance of an individual was also taken into account.
The M&G spoke to five EFF sources in Gauteng close to the restructuring process, who chose to remain anonymous.
But a number of members went public with their outrage, including Violetia Mathonsi, who describes herself as a member “in good standing” and who sources confirmed was a member of the EFF in Gauteng.
“Is this the beginning of signs of the old Julius back [to] his old ways of removing all those who are not agreeing [with] his every word? Is this the type of leadership that we have voted for?” she asked in an open Facebook post. “Now that it is clear that if you are not a ‘yes boss person’ you get DEALT with.”
The party’s first few weeks in Parliament were marred with outrage after it was revealed that their parliamentarians were accepting perks of free housing, free flights and other luxuries that came on top of their more than R900 000 annual salaries.
Malema told the Sowetan newspaper it would be “wasteful” to leave the houses provided by the state unoccupied.
And, while the party campaigned on the idea that public representatives should be forced to use public services like schools and hospitals, it was revealed after he took his seat in Parliament that Malema had no intention of enrolling his son in a public school.
Ndlozi justified the perceived about-turn with a narrow reading of the party’s manifesto. “We believe public representation should be forced by law to use public services,” he told the M&G, echoing a justification by the party’s leaders that they were not obliged to follow through on their lofty vision for state representatives unless they could control the quality of public institutions.
These were one of the concerns Gauteng members wanted to raise at the meeting in Braamfontein. Other issues included the allegation that some people had bought their way on to the national and provincial lists of the party. But Malema allegedly dismissed the issues raised and went about the party restructuring instead, announcing a new PCT.
“Julius doesn’t want people who can challenge him,” said another member of a RCT in Gauteng. “Whoever he thinks in the long run can be a challenge to him, he deals with them directly.”
A key member who was ousted was Gauteng organiser Lufuno Gogoro. Gogoro also went public about the matter on his Facebook profile after the meeting in which he was axed, predicting “Cope tendencies” in the movement. The post was later deleted.
The Congress of the People (Cope) emerged out of factional battles in the ANC, garnered a big number of votes after a short existence, but was subsequently torn apart by internal power battles.
Ndlozi said the claims were expected. “One can engage in a process, and nobody will be happy. I’m not surprised.” He emphasised that the restructuring was a countrywide organisational matter and not restricted to Gauteng. “Things like that will rub people the wrong way, they will be innovative [with their complaints].”