January 18, 2021

This is what panic looks like

The Economic Freedom Fighters, who pose as pugilistic revolutionaries afraid of nothing and no one, have now "banned" Daily Maverick, Scorpio, and amaBhungane from all of their events. For an organization that has a ‘War Council’ and a ‘Commander-in-Chief’, this appears to be a panic move.

Imagine a political party led by a political celebrity pretending to have a political platform. He emerges from the bog of the Mbeki-era ANC Youth League — (highlight: during a press conference, he disparages the size of a BBC journalist’s ‘junk’, as the kids would say) — and yet we cover his rise, because he is a vital story in the history of the oldest liberation movement in Africa, and hug-ability isn’t the criteria by which we judge importance.

Self-confessed vanguard of ‘the youth’, he backs Jacob Zuma in the succession battle against Mbeki, and in the process helps advance both rape culture and demagoguery as the grammar of our political discourse.

Still, we cover him, because this devolution itself is an important story.

As head of the Youth League, he calls for nationalisation of the mines, the banks and the land, and shortly thereafter finds himself excommunicated from the mother body.

This is a story, and so we cover him.

He goes after Zuma (drama!), and he is subsequently sent into the wilderness, transforming into an engorged, Gucci-slippered stalwart of the nite-clubocracy.

And still, we cover him.

Why, you ask?

As an autocrat posing as a leftist, he nonetheless seems to own the consciousness of so many in the ANC. Their failures have birthed him, and they love him because he is their monster. The more monstrous he becomes, the more he explains the ANC. And the more he becomes a story.

So we cover him.

After his exile, he starts his own party. He brings along with him smart men and a small minority of women, demanding ‘economic freedom in our lifetime’. Is this the Marxist-Leninist revolution promised to South Africans since 1918?

Who knows? And so, we cover him. And his merry men.

2014: His first election is a mixed bag. The party wins 6 percent of the overall vote (by way of comparison, Cope won almost 10 percent in 2006). But with his 25 members of parliament, he makes far more noise than is his due. He and his cohorts wear overalls and hard hats and demand that Zuma ‘pay back the money.’ Their lawfare is peerless.

Now, this is a story.

Oh sure, his claims don’t align, and nor does his ideology square with his behaviour. But he insists that he wants to repent for his Zuma-philia, and that he hopes to represent all South Africans in our collective quest for economic freedom.

Nice story. So we cover him. And his merry men.

He hunts down Zuma and his Gupta benefactors with admirable focus. But then one day, as with all demagogues, he begins to overreach, and he ‘bans’ the Gupta-owned media — journalists at TV station ANN7 and newspaper publication The New Age — from attending his events.

No fans of the Guptas, we nonetheless write the very same day:

Nothing—absolutely nothing—justifies the threats extended to New Age and ANN7 reporters earlier on Thursday by Julius Malema. At a press conference called to address the recent developments regarding the Nkandla scandal, Malema announced that the EFF were going to war with the Guptas. They warned that members of the press working for The New Age and ANN7 were no longer welcome at EFF press events, and would be treated as combatants in this war. (It must be stressed that Malema didn’t overtly threaten violence, but it made for an uncomfortable and hostile low point in the relationship between a controversial politician and the free press covering the news he generates.)

“No matter how distasteful the Gupta media empire may or may not be, they function within a proscribed model that has served the average South African remarkably well. With all the ANC’s attempts to introduce secrecy bills and choke off advertising funds to publications it considers adversarial, in South Africa journalists cover the news in a safe environment conducive to robust and combative journalism.

“We do not accept the celebrity politician’s bad faith ‘ban’, which targets mostly young black men and women often learning on the job. Indeed, we are on occasion forced to physically intervene between ANN7 employees and EFF supporters at rallies, watching the basics of democracy wither before our eyes.”

And yet still we cover him. He features in our events, his people write op-eds, we engage as members of a competing, yet living, discourse.

You don’t pick your politicians. You simply cover them.

Then Zuma is vanquished. Suddenly, the celebrity politician loses his narrative. The racial rhetoric kicks up a notch. Nothing he says makes sense; he flip-flops like a drunk piloting a Zeppelin (oh, the humanity!). Worse, we find that he and his associates have been complicit in a bank robbery, lining his party’s and his own pockets with money that, by rights, belongs to poor people of Limpopo who have entrusted the VBS mutual fund with their life savings.

The politician and his cabal demand that the government bail out the bank, imagining that their crime would be victimless. But such crimes never are. Lives are ruined. Municipalities are brought to their knees. It is the poorest of the poor — it is always them — who pour their sweat, pain and back-breaking work into those Louis Vuittons and Guccis.

And so, we cover him. And his merry men.

Every nasty little bank transaction; every fraudulent purchase. We cover him.

We expose the fact that, after all, his party is nothing more than a bargain-basement mafia organization stealing scraps from pensioners.

This, he takes badly.

During an embarrassingly Muppets-In-Hell memorial service on Thursday, for recently departed kleptocrat Robert Mugabe, his Hitler-moustached replica still so fresh, he bans Daily Maverick, our investigative outlet Scorpio, and muckracking aces amaBhungane, from all future EFF events. We are, the celebrity politician says, ‘enemies.’

But this we promise: we’ll keep covering him. And his merry men. Every fraudulent transaction. Every stolen rand. Every lie. Every inconsistency. Every broken law. Every publicity stunt. Every race-baiting cheap trick.

He can “ban” us, in theory. We do believe he is denying us our constitutional right, and he will hear from our lawyers. It’s marginal, really.

But we will never ban him. Like most political hacks, he hopes shouting lies, screaming obscenities, and delivering non-sequiturs will make the story swing his way. It won’t.

Closing your eyes as the truck is hurtling towards you does not make the truck disappear.

We understand his panic. It’s warranted. Truth cannot be stopped. DM

This article was first published by the Daily Maverick.


The Economic Freedom Fighters, who pose as pugilistic revolutionaries afraid of nothing and no one, have now "banned" Daily Maverick, Scorpio, and amaBhungane from all of their events. For an organization that has a ‘War Council’ and a ‘Commander-in-Chief’, this appears to be a panic move.

Additional Info

  • Author: Moira Levy
Last modified on Friday, 13 September 2019 13:29

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Notes from the House is an independent online publication that tracks and monitors Parliament’s role in fulfilling its constitutional responsibilities to improve the lives of South African citizens. Published by Moira Levy with the support of the Claude Leon Foundation.

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