Floyd Shivambu. Picture: MARTIN RHODES
Floyd Shivambu. Picture: MARTIN RHODES

IN A case of the terrible threes, the EFF is experiencing internal ructions akin to a toddler’s growing pains. Its KwaZulu-Natal structure has thrown its toys out of its cot and bemoaned the mother body’s inability to seek consensus over strategic alliances with other opposition parties.

Only three years old, the party has managed to survive beyond expectations, while others around it, such as the Congress of the People, the National Freedom Party and AgangSA, were imploding.

The flamboyance of its young leadership and its radical policies have seen the party grow against the odds. It bravely took on the ANC in Parliament and can justifiably take some credit for President Jacob Zuma repaying R7.8m for improvements to his Nkandla residence.

A few weeks ago, the EFF played a crucial role in unseating the governing party in the metros of Johannesburg and Tshwane, voting with the DA. However, its growth in stature has also brought about some cracks in its edifice.

On Saturday, EFF members in KwaZulu-Natal called for deputy president Floyd Shivambu to step down, saying he had misused party funds. They also want the national leadership to explain why it decided to vote with the DA in some municipalities without consulting them.

"The issue here is that we don’t want decisions being taken without consulting us," said KwaZulu-Natal council candidate Mthandeni Zungu. "We don’t want to hear their [national leadership’s] responses via the media." Zungu has since been fired for these utterances, among other things.

He and other party members also took issue with the central command team’s decision last week to disband branches in the region and in the Eastern Cape, saying they had not been consulted.

Zungu said that as a card-carrying member, he deserved to be heard and refused to be dictated to, because the party should consult with its people on the ground before making decisions.

They also disagreed with a levy the party has imposed on councillors, requiring them to hand over to the party 50% of their salaries for the first three months after taking up their positions.

"We won’t allow this thing of deducting councillors’ money because MPs are not charged, their salaries are not being deducted," said Zungu.

"We won’t be silenced. We need answers, we are still EFF members."

On Sunday, the EFF issued a statement calling the meeting held by the KwaZulu-Natal members a bogus briefing that misled its members into thinking they were going to a real meeting.

"These members, by acting outside of the culture, structures, codes and processes they signed up for when they joined the EFF, have effectively expelled themselves. We will not tolerate ill-discipline," the statement said. It also said the EFF would not respond to members who did not understand the principles of the organisation.

The party’s inability to engage its membership at times like these and its top-down approach to solving problems could prove its undoing.

Thus far, those who have questioned the leadership’s actions in a similar manner have been dismissed from the party summarily.

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EFF secretary-general Godrich Gardee said: "These things [complaints] have happened before, they are not starting today and they will not end today."

He said the party had responded to members’ grievances, but it could not be expected to deal with the same complaint, which some members submitted repeatedly when they did not get the result they wanted.

Political analyst Ralph Mathekga said it was disturbing that councillors were expected to give 50% of their earnings in the first three months. "This is not something that you can just impose without consultation."

He said it was of concern that the EFF saw asking questions on social media — like when it ran a poll on Twitter, asking who it should go into a coalition with — as consultation.

That pointed to "elite politics" and contradicted what the party said it stood for, said Mathekga.

If the party wanted to survive in the long-term, then its leaders had to remember that the problem the EFF was having — of a party that was not open to being questioned — was what had led to the EFF being formed from an ANC splinter group, he said.