This has been my (Nicholas’) first year at Rhodes University in Grahamstown, and after having been in a university environment for a little while, I’ve met and spoken to supporters and members of various political groups. It’s not uncommon to see someone wearing a blue DA shirt or a yellow ANC one. However, by far the most common (it may seem) is the red EFF shirt and/or beret. What makes this more interesting is the fact that my university functions as its own ward within the Makana municipality, which includes Grahamstown and the surrounding areas. Because of this, the respective student organisations of political parties play a role in the governance of the ward. Currently, Makana Ward 12 is controlled by the DA.
While the outcomes of the upcoming local government elections remain to be seen, it is interesting to note that EFF supporters are clearly not afraid of showing-off their support for their party. Although we respect the right of individuals to have and support any political ideology, the one caveat to this (as is the caveat to all liberties) is that it does not constitute an infringement on the rights of others. EFF supporters do no harm per se, but it’s also important to note that many South Africans are not informed about the specifics of the party’s platform. After reading a few of the policies on their website, any classical liberal would be disgusted that people could be in favour of a party with such little respect for the rights of individuals. The EFF is not a party that intends to protect our natural rights, and one should certainly not be proud of wearing the red beret. Outlined below are a few of their policies, as well as their moral abhorrence.
From the EFF’s own website:
“The EFF’s approach to land expropriation without occupation is that all land should be transferred to the ownership and custodianship of the state in a similar way that all mineral and petroleum resources were transferred to the ownership and custodianship of the state through the Minerals and Petroleum Resources Development Act (MPRDA) of 2002. The state should, through its legislative capacity transfer all land to the state, which will administer and use land for sustainable-development purposes. This transfer should happen without compensation, and should apply to all South Africans, black and white.”
For those who believe in natural rights, this policy is profoundly immoral, and it would essentially do away with any meaningful property rights in South Africa. At this point, it is worth briefly exploring exactly what it means to ‘own’ something.
Ownership has to do with control. If you really own something, you get to decide how and when it is used – or even whether it’ll be used. You can sell it if you want, or lend it to someone. If you really wanted to, you could even discard or destroy it. Indeed, ownership has to do with control.
With this in mind, collective ‘ownership’ is a meaningless concept – especially when millions of citizens in a country are meant to ‘own’ something simultaneously. ‘The People’ will not make decisions about how land will be used, or by whom it will be farmed, or what will be grown, or what will happen to the proceeds from whatever is produced and sold. For the EFF to say that ‘The People’ will own land – as they so often do – is not only dishonest; it is incredibly insulting. Regardless of the legal form of the arrangement, the elite few who make up the government will invariably become the owners of farmland. The EFF’s land policy will reduce farmers to quasi-feudal serfs.
Looking at specifics, the policy explains that land will be leased to people by the State. As mere tenants, those leasing the land will have very little freedom to do what they want with it: the EFF would reserve the right to “expropriate in instances where the land is not used for the purpose applied for”. These measures are dictatorial, and would ultimately deny almost any sort of freedom of people to exercise their property rights.
We do not need to look far to see the effects that these sorts of policies can have; one interview by John Stossel reveals the plight of contemporary Native Americans who live on government-owned ‘reservations’. These people are unable to borrow money against the land, setup irrigation and farming operations, or make any modifications that would improve productivity and land utility without the permission of the government. Quite aptly, the chief being interviewed said, “Fundamentally, the root of the problem is that we don’t have the same property rights as others take for granted…”
In a fairly recent debate with Clem Sunter, Julius Malema repeatedly argued that land ownership and dignity are inextricably linked. Ironically, his policies would strip away the ability of individuals to own land. Moreover: what dignity is there in not being able to do with your land as you see fit, without first seeking the permission of the government? The EFF’s policy on land will leave black South Africans, in particular, with the same property rights that they had under apartheid.
“…the state should introduce, through legislation, minimum wages, which will better the living conditions of the people.”
While socialists (especially the EFF) like to position themselves as champions of the poor and the working class, there exists a deafening silence among them about what the implications of a regulated economy will be. For example, the EFF thinks that a minimum wage will better the living conditions of the poor, but the only thing a minimum wage will do is make it more difficult for entrepreneurs to start up businesses, and encourage businesses facing artificially higher labour costs to downsize. This might improve the living conditions of some workers, but it will severely worsen the conditions of many others, as many people will simply be without jobs. The EFF states on their website that they reject “the orthodoxy that minimum wages cause unemployment,” but they present no explanation as to how this could be.
Ultimately, the private sector has consistently outperformed nationalised firms, and the only people the EFF will be helping with their economic policy will be the relatively lucky workers who don’t get laid off.
Threats of Violence
In 2011, Julius Malema publicly called for the overthrow of the government of Botswana, arguably one of the most successful and liberal stories of post-independence Africa. In 2014, he called for the province of Gauteng to be made ungovernable, threatening to mobilise people and physically fight. Earlier this year, in an interview with Al Jazeera, Malema stated that his people would take up arms against the State in order to “remove this government through the barrel of a gun.”
The EFF is clearly not afraid of making rash statements and threatening real violence towards South Africans. South Africa’s present government may be far from ideal, but the EFF is a party that seems happy to grant itself even more power and use greater force to meet its aims; they have already outlined their willingness to acquire this power through a bloody coup d’etat.
Governments do not get a special exemption from committing crimes just because of their status as ‘the government’. This is no less the case for the alternative presented to us by the EFF – one that is comparable to failed socialist states such as Venezuela, Cuba, and (one could argue) Zimbabwe. As we have already stated, the rights of the individual seem to be no concern of the EFF.
Their aggressive and violent nature, coupled with their disastrous land and economic policies, would make the EFF a catastrophic and morally abhorrent governing party. Even in the context of the local government elections, the EFF is not a party anyone should be proud of supporting.