I agree with most analysts who have come out to say that the Economic Freedom Fighters’ manifesto is unrealistic and unachievable.
But I believe it will score the EFF votes because primarily, that is what a manifesto seeks to achieve – at least in the realist sense of the South African politics since I have been a voter.
A simple Wikipedia search will inform you that a manifesto is “a published declaration of the intentions, motives, or views of the issuer, be it an individual, group, political party or government”.
Therefore, a manifesto is a tentative statement of intent. It is an ideal. It is not a plan. It is used as a mechanism to lure votes, and that is the bottom line of all political parties considering the fact that we are only three months away from elections.
The EFF manifesto speaks to the issues that its targeted voters want addressed. When you hear your issues being given attention and expressed in a manner that resonates with your daily realities, you are bound to pay attention.
The wording is quite simple and straightforward. It doesn’t need interpretation from renowned analysts or any other third party.
It speaks directly to its target audience. It is tailored to make sense to everyone, especially those whose issues are brought up.
The tone resonates with how people feel on the ground. People want change and meaningful lives now, not according to some 20 to 30-year plan.
It also taps into emotion. The manner and location of where it was presented is in line with frustrations of people in similar locations, particularly, black townships and villages and farms.
The EFF has positioned itself as black people’s party.
Yes, there is an emerging “elitist, educated middle class” but that is a very small fraction compared with the working class mainly made up of security guards, petrol attendants, farmworkers, mineworkers, factory workers, under/unemployed and young people who are referenced explicitly in the manifesto.
Therefore that “voter market” is one to tap into. That is a voter market that feels dejected and abandoned in previous elections.
There is a chance that they are prone to vote for the first party to talk directly to talk to them about addressing their struggles not only in their homes and communities but also in their places of employment.
Some have questioned the sanity of the EFF for having such a “promissory” manifesto but when the 18 to 21-year-old first-time voter who is the son or daughter of a petrol attendant, security guard, farmworker, mineworker, domestic worker or factory worker hears about the prospect of free education and hearing his father/mothers issues raised, it follows that he/she will be more likely to vote for the EFF.
The long list of (impossible) promises are not there by error. It is all deliberate.
Mbuyiseni Ndlozi holds a PhD in political sociology, Floyd Shivambu is a PhD candidate, Julius Malema is an master’s candidate, Godrich Gardee has a list of qualifications, Dali Mpofu is a decorated advocate ... the list is endless.
They have an infinite list of other legal, economic, political and sociological minds on their books.
That enables them to manipulate and manoeuvre their way into any and every socially significant space to lure votes.
Remember for now, the focus is on increasing support. The EFF certainly knows they will not win elections.
They will not be in government but the ability to inspire the voter to connect with the message is always necessary to sway attention of voters towards their party.
Nothing any analyst has said or written hasn’t been anticipated.
The EFF decided to run with their manifesto because it draws attention, headlines and – ultimately – votes.
We cannot dismiss the role played by media coverage – whether good or bad – in influencing the direction of elections.
The very fact that so much attention is being paid to the EFF by the media is always a win for them, one way or the other.
It is worth noting that politics is not a game of logic. It is a game of delivering the most popular message. Logic makes people read and inquire. Very few make time for that.
The EFF will earn votes, not automatically because of its manifesto’s logical and realist nature, but because people want a glimmer of hope, especially young people and the working class.
Many voters have lost faith in the ANC and don’t trust the DA largely due to assumed “whiteness”.
That gives EFF a shot at being the default party for disgruntled black folks.
Most importantly, I admit Juju’s personality may be a repellent for some. At the same time it is a big draw card for others.
While some attack his personality, some are inspired by it. He says what he thinks, how he thinks, whenever the opportunity presents itself.
He is a grand opportunist and an expert manipulator. One needs that in politics.
One needs to be able to twist and manipulate situations towards the benefit of her/his aspirations.
He is a master at that.
• Gcina Mtengwane is an MA social policy and social development at the Wits School of Human and Community Development. He holds a master social science and a bachelor of social work from Fort Hare University. He writes in his personal capacity.