By Kim Heller. Article was first published in The New Age www.thenewage.co.za
IN LATE 2014, after I resigned as the deputy secretary of the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) in Gauteng, several people asked me to return to the ANC, which was my political home prior to EFF. My retort to those who urged me to return was that I could not and would not support the ANC until the party showed a resolute commitment to economic liberation.
While I have an appreciation of the massive task the ANC has faced in combating the legacy of colonial and apartheid plunder, I have previously voiced concern about the ANC’s timidity in dealing decisively enough with white privilege and the super-sized white grip over the economy of South Africa. I have voiced considerable dismay at the enduring prosperity of white interests in a post-democratic South Africa while radical economic transformation hovers as a poorly nourished, pint-sized waif. And I have been critical of the seeming listlessness of the ANC in claiming back the stolen land of South Africa, on behalf of black South Africans.
I was not ready to return to the ANC in 2014 because I was not fully convinced that there was the sufficient will to steer a truly radical and uncompromising economic transformation agenda. But I am returning to the ANC now, three years later, encouraged by recent rigorous calls by President Jacob Zuma for radical economic transformation and his determined push to fast-track land return. I am encouraged too, by the appointment of Malusi Gigaba as our minister of finance, because unlike Trevor Manuel and Pravin Gordhan, I do not believe that Gigaba is beholden to white interests. For those who have relished in the preserve of white privilege, the rise of Gigaba has been an almighty shock but for me it is a signal of the ANC’s intent to reinvigorate its programme of radical economic transformation. My confidence in the EFF as a force for radical economic transformation has waned. While the EFF has a superbly crafted and highly resonant manifesto on economic liberation, the party has faltered in the effective execution of its progressive economic policies. I was initially drawn by the promise of this young revolutionary party, who during its inception placed issues of economic liberation and land return at the very pivot of our sociopolitical discourse.
I was also highly impressed by the standard of leadership, most notably Julius Malema, Dali Mpofu, Floyd Shivambu and Andile Mngxitama, among others, all of whom I continue to admire today, in spite of differences we may have. At the heart of my decision to join EFF in early 2014 was my steadfast support of radical economic transformation. I made the decision to leave the EFF in late 2014 because of the expulsion of key leaders, including Andile Mngxitama and Khanyisile Litchfield-Tshabalala, who in my view, brought critical ideological weight and revolutionary potency to EFF and whose loss has been devastating to the party and its radical trajectory. I was also devastated, like many other fighters, when the EFF gave our votes to the DA. The DA’s capture of highly valuable metropolitan centres in the 2016 municipal elections was a result of an illegitimate gifting of EFF votes, and I verbalised my discomfort with this decision at the time. Many EFF voters, including myself, would not have voted for the EFF if we had any idea that our votes would be used to further entitle and boost white economic power, rather than root it out.
The EFF’s recent coupling with the DA made me question whether this new political party is indeed an authentic force for radical economic transformation. The arrangement with the DA has amplified white economic power, arrogance and racism and I still hope it is one the EFF will reverse. The DA, with or without Maimane, is a party whose very oxygen is white privilege. I have previously described Maimane as the great white hope in our post-apartheid South Africa, as a man who has politically and literally bullet-proofed himself against blackness. The DA’s economic policy undercarriage was expertly engineered to support the longevity of white power in South Africa and it is hardly something that Maimane will be allowed to tinker with.
He will garner the white vote, the applause of media, the unbridled delight of business as long as he does not disrupt the guarantees of white privilege set so decisively by colonialism and apartheid. I will not be party to this post-colonial plan to preserve white privilege. Radical economic transformation and land redistribution were horribly caught in the aftershock of apartheid. In a win for white South Africans, the Rainbow Nation entrenched privilege in 1994. A coalition of the opposition will not end the apartheid after-party of plenty for whites, it will merely extend, accentuate and entrench white privilege and its cultural underscoring of white assimilation, which will downgrade black interests even further. We will never look upon a free Azania, neither will our children. My greatest wish is to witness economic liberation.
My return to the ANC is a vote of confidence that this party can lead South Africa to economic emancipation.
Kim Heller is a writer and commentator