The Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF), led by Julius Malema, will set out its economic policy in what is expected to be an aggressive and engaging parliamentary debate on the role of the state in South Africa’s future growth or decline.
It is one of the enduring and positive legacies of Jackson
Mthembu’s tenure as ANC Chief Whip that every Tuesday afternoon, during the
parliamentary sitting, MPs get the opportunity to engage in a battle of ideas as
political parties each get a turn – on a proportional rotational basis – to set
down a topical policy issue for debate.
This afternoon, it is the EFF’s turn to propose the debate
topic, which is set to be introduced by its leader, Julius Malema. The topic,
as proposed by the EFF is, “Building state capacity through insourcing of
government and all state-owned companies’ workers.”
Much as that may seem many people’s worst nightmare, it is
the stuff EFF dreams are made of, several Red Beret wish list items rolled into
one somewhat laboriously worded magic carpet ready to take us on to a statist
Julius Malema to address Parliament on EFF economic policies
Malema, his deputy Floyd Shivambu and the EFF as a whole, take
these economic debates very seriously, so expect them to be very well prepared.
EFF policy documents lay out in some detail how, were it ever to come to power,
the EFF will build a resourceful state owning a monopoly on everything from
construction and pharmaceuticals to land.
Expect also to hear lots of attacks on the free market from
the Reds this afternoon, as well as white monopoly capital and Stellenbosch –
the concept it represents in an EFF world view, not the actual quaint oak-lined
The EFF is likely to point out, empirically and correctly,
that inequality in South Africa has deepened since 1994. More controversially,
it will blame the extent to which the ANC government has favoured the free
market (spoiler alert – watch out, “neo-liberalism” will be in the firing line)
for this inequality.
Do not expect to hear anything, though, on EFF finances, the VBS calamity which destroyed the tenuous hold of the rural poor in the country’s extreme north on financial stability, but which, according to investigative work by the Daily Maverick, paid for some lavish shopping excursions by EFF toadies.
Democratic Alliance set to hit back
The EFF’s statist views are, of course, anathema to the DA,
which will, no doubt, ask the EFF for a list of things state-owned entities do
The DA is likely to list all the state does wrong, starting with Eskom, sovereign debt ratings, the SAA, Denel, the SABC and the bailouts which, through the failure of the South African state, bleed dry the very funds a developmental state would have to rely upon to save the poor from destitution.
If the DA were to find it within themselves to make these
points in a calm and considered manner, as quizzing rather than blasting the
EFF’s ideological basis, today’s debate could serve a purpose, namely to help
move South African political parties away from the thought silos where each
policy discussion is an echo chamber with no-one listening and trying to
understand the opposing party’s view.
That, after all, is the aim of debate for the intelligent –
it is an opportunity to listen whether you can understand and learn anything
from your opponent’s view so that you gain and grow in the process. It is
supposed to be an exercise in listening, first and foremost, not an exercise in
What the EFF will have to do in today’s debate is to set out what its belief in the South African civil service as the catalyst rather than the wrecking ball of economic growth is based on.
EFF’s land policy to come under the microscope
If its opponents do their job, they should also be pushed on their land policy. What started out as that “the state must own all land” has now morphed into “the state will not own your house” and lately “the state will own all land except the Zulu tribal land under the Ingonyama Trust” which, of course, is incoherent and legally well-nigh impossible.
The topic also speaks to “insourcing” of all work
opportunities, which means permanent positions with benefits like pensions and
health contributions from the state as employer for all concerned.
Which is great if you can land such a job, but which means
that because of a higher unit cost per job and the budget as a limited resource
there will be fewer of those jobs going, and the EFF will probably be put on
terms this afternoon to explain how that would lessen unemployment.