EFF’s Dali Mpofu: Changing the Constitution. Tackling inequality, poverty.

Advocate Dali Mpofu says the huge turnout at the march organised by the EFF demonstrates that South Africans are fed up with the current economic structure of the country. The march took place in Johannesburg where the 50,000 demonstrators presented memoranda to the Reserve Bank, Chamber of Mines and the JSE. He says the EFF is opposed to the entrenchment of inequality and poverty levels in society and will change the constitution to revoke the property clauses. Mpofu says his party’s message and political activity are beginning to resonate with the majority of South Africans and will culminate with EFF acquiring power through democratic means. Tim Modise

Advocate Dali Mpofu, thank you very much for joining me here on our Transformation Section. I appreciate it.

Thank you very much, Tim.

As the Chairperson of the Economic Freedom Fighters, you would regard this as a very successful week for your organization. Did you expect that big turnout on Tuesday?

Yes, we did. We don’t do things by coincidence and those people didn’t just show up there. We do a lot of work on the ground. I don’t think there’s any organization in this country that knows how to work the ground as successfully as we do, and that has been demonstrated e.g. by the fact that this year alone, we are the only organization that has had massive rallies at stadiums. These days, most organisations have their meetings in halls, etcetera. You need to be quite confident and have the ability to mobilise people to have the guts to call them to a stadium and fill it.

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Well, one commentator suggested that the whole march was just a brand-building exercise or a show of strength and that there wasn’t really much substance to it.

I saw that. I think that is utter drivel, for two reasons. Firstly, we planned our calendar at the beginning of the year with all our activities and we released our activities to the media in February or March. We even have a physical calendar where this event is there, so it’s not a knee-jerk thing. It’s something we decided on a long time ago. That’s the one thing. As far as the substance is concerned, I would ask that commentator to produce any example of an organisation that was able to come up with a three-page memoranda delivered at three different sites on the same day. A lot of thought went into each memorandum. For example, the memorandum to the Reserve Bank addresses certain issues. The memorandum to the Chamber of Mines addresses specific issues, and the memorandum to the JSE addresses different issues. If that isn’t substance, then I don’t know what substance is.

Why did you specifically choose these three institutions? I will talk about the content of the memoranda in a moment, but why the Reserve Bank, the Chamber, and the Stock Exchange?

If you remember, the march was dubbed the Economic Freedom March, which is a broad statement because what we define as economic freedom is encapsulated in what we call the seven pillars of economic freedom. This march (kind of) covered some of the key pillars to economic freedom.

The first pillar deals with land. We didn’t cover it directly here. The second one deals with the nationalisation of mines and banks – hence the Chamber of Mines and the Reserve Bank. Then of course, we deal with broad industrialisation. Free education is one of our pillars and that combined with the message. In fact, that was probably the common thread of the message from the Chamber of Mines and the JSE. That’s what we were saying. We’re showcasing the breadth of the economic freedom struggle, as it were.

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When the university students embarked on their protest action, many of us were thinking that the EFF is going to take advantage of the developments there but somehow, you stayed out of it and waited for your own march. Why was that?

We stayed out for two reasons. Firstly, in June we launched our own EFF Student Command. We long recognised, maybe before many, that the struggle around free education is something, which is part and parcel of the broader burning issues in South Africa. When we had our national conference/our first elective conference in December, we took a resolution there that we were going to form a Youth Wing, a Women’s Wing, and a Student Command. When the leadership met for the first time in January, we decided tactically, that we must prioritise the Student Command, which we did and we launched it in June. That’s why we’ve been winning elections at universities etcetera, and making a huge impact for an organisation that is a few months old (the Student Command), and so we were aware of what was going on from that point of view.

Secondly, some of us were student activists/leaders. I was a student leader at Wits so I know the dynamics there. We know that when there is that kind of broad community issue either with students or with a particular community with water etcetera, you don’t necessarily have to use a particular political party flag. Those struggles are best fought across the board. In 1976 and in the 80’s where people were rejecting the system, they didn’t say ‘okay, I’m from the PAC/ANC etcetera’. They went out there as students and that was symbolised by the fact that when they left the country, some went to the PAC, some went to the BCM, and others went to the ANC. However, while they are conducting the struggle, it is best to be done in a non-partisan way, so we also wanted to leave that space open. As a result, you could see the marches (at first) were led by student leaders from the SRC, the Progressive Youth Alliance, and from the EFF – all in unison.

Coming back to the EFF march for economic freedom and the demands contained in the memoranda that you presented, what response do you expect from those institutions that you approached (the Reserve Bank, the Chamber of Mines, and the Stock Exchange)?

Well, there are long-term demands, which we have put in there but there are some quick wins, which can be achieved/dealt with immediately. For example, with the Reserve Bank, we’re going to them and we made it clear in the memorandum that we are approaching them effectively, as the Regulator of the banking sector. Instead of marching to Standard Bank, Absa, FNB, and Nedbank, we marched to the Regulator to say ‘these are the concerns. This is what people are saying about how the banks are treating them in terms of their lending policies, etcetera’. They appreciated the approach and said that they would communicate it to the banks.

When it comes to the Chamber of Mines, one of the burning issues right now is the massive threat of retrenchments, which is obviously going to add more strain to the currently dire economic situation. We’re talking about those issues, the issues that pertain that sector – Marikana, etcetera – and nationalisation.

When it came to the JSE…again, you can call the JSE loosely-regulated. It’s the Regulator of the listed companies, the big conglomerates that are listed under it and again, it was a one-stop shop. Instead of marching to MTN and SA Breweries, rather go to the one-stop shop and communicate. There, the message was very simple. It says that if the companies themselves do not take particular steps to transform in various ways… Remember where we’re coming from, we’re a socialist organisation but we know that socialism is not going to come tomorrow. What needs to happen is that in the meantime, the private sector (such as it is) must move towards a people-centred kind of approach to things such as the diversity in their management, etcetera.

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You’ve also placed a demand on the Stock Exchange. For instance, they must respond to your memorandum in 30 days. There are specific things, which need to be done there. Is it possible? Is it doable, that in 30 days you can get a favourable response?

You might say they wouldn’t be able to come back on everything in 30 days, but I think that what they did was actually, quite clever. While we were giving the memorandum, the CEO of the JSE offered that we should meet as soon as possible, so I’m sure that meeting will happen within 30 days and that already would be a deliverable. Since we couldn’t discuss all the 25 demands on top of a truck outside the JSE, we will then have a chance – possibly – to flesh out all the demands, maybe to form working groups, and only then would we be able to say ‘these are the timelines’. What we want now is some kind of response and I think the request for meeting is already a response.

There is a view that the EFF has been brilliant in raising the injustices in our society and making some demands that these be corrected. In terms of the solutions to the country’s problems though, the EFF has not been that creative, that its expectations or suggestive economic policies are unworkable in this kind of environment.

Every liberation organisation or social movement is accused of that. That doesn’t faze us. That’s exactly what everyone said about the ANC before 1994. If you listen to the American Presidential race now, the Democrats say that whatever the Republicans are saying, is unworkable and it’s ‘pie in the sky’. That’s politics. For example, if you look at our 2014 elections Manifesto, it is the most detailed. Even economics who don’t like us, said ‘this is the most detailed exposition of what could be done. I might not agree with it ideologically, but it is all there’. In there, we’ve covered everything ranging from the minimum wage and nationalisation to all sorts of solutions in the classroom. This issue of free education is fleshed out in detail there so that accusation really doesn’t hold any water.

I don’t mind if someone says they don’t agree with our policies, but they mustn’t say that they’re not there because they’re there for all to see. We have a very detailed Manifesto. We have even written a book to explain our policies.

Well, they look at the current situation and say ‘we have 25 percent plus or 35 percent unemployment, depending on the numbers you go with and if you listen to the EFF and what it’s proposing, that would destroy the economy, which would lead to even further job losses. What you should be focusing on at this time, is getting the economy to grow at a much faster pace and what the EFF talks about, would scare off investors’. That’s one example.

Why would investors be scared off? Let’s take the minimum wage. We introduced the issue of the minimum wage in South Africa, very strongly. As I’m speaking to you, Barack Obama is reducing the minimum wage. Germany introduced the minimum wage last year. Those people are not scaring off investors. They are actually doing the exact opposite. The only way you stimulate an economy is by making sure that aggregate demand is expanded, and that people’s disposable income is increased. Those people know the basic economics and that’s why they do the things that we talk about. The bestseller by Thomas Piketty on inequality and capital says exactly the things… That book has sold millions of copies around the world because people understand that inequality is unsustainable. How does that scare off anybody?

Their argument is that you need more entrepreneurship and not minimum wage-type demands. Small and medium-sized enterprises are the ones that create employment. That’s the argument.

Of course they do, but you can’t do it in an environment of inequality. That’s the central argument. You can’t do it by further squeezing the working class into oblivion as it were, just because you want entrepreneurship. You extract more profits from those people and increase the gap of inequality. That’s the recipe for disaster because once that happens, there’s going to be a revolt and people are going to take the law into their own hands. Guess who’s going to be scaring the investors then? That’s the whole point. We are preventing that kind of catastrophe because no investor is going to come to the most unequal society in the world, because that’s just a power-keg waiting to explode.

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There are two parts to my question. (1) Property ownership in the country. The way the EFF is suggesting it should be dealt with means a violation of the Constitution because that’s guaranteed. Therefore, if you say you’re going to expropriate land without compensation, you’re going to lead to lawlessness and violation of that enshrined Constitutional right, for example. (2) In the rhetoric as well, the EFF is a racist organisation that espouses anti-White sentiments. Explain.

The first one is very easy. Remember, we are an organisation that has decided (deliberately) to work within the law. That’s why we registered with the IEC. That’s why we fight elections. We don’t say we want to take power by going to the Union Buildings and burning things. We want to take power by convincing people to vote for us and one-million or so people voted for us. Maybe next time, it will be five-million. Maybe another time, it will be enough for us to have so we are convinced that our policies are correct. If we’re right, the South African public will buy those policies. If we are wrong, the South African public won’t buy those policies. When we talk about land expropriation, we differ very fundamentally with the 1994 deal that was done between the ANC and private capital, to preserve the property rights of White people to what they have been over the past few centuries.

We differ fundamentally with Section 25 of the Constitution. If we ever had a sufficient majority to change the Constitution, which is 66.6 percent the first thing we would do, would be to change Section 25. That is why, when we got to Parliament, the first thing we said… We said to the ANC, “If you are serious about returning the land to the people…let’s say you made a mistake in 1994 and now you can see the error of your ways, you have 61/62 percent. We have six percent. Combined, that is enough to change the Constitution in respect of Section 25. Let’s do it together.” They refused that offer because they are entrenched in protecting the White minority and not addressing these serious issues of South Africa. That shortcut didn’t work. We have to do it the long way. We must get more support and more alliances until such time as we are able to change the Constitution.

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As far as the view about the rhetoric of EFF goes, that it’s an anti-White party and therefore, a racist organisation…what is your view? Now and again, White people who are an important part of the population here as citizens in the country, feel that the EFF is a threat to them.

Again, it’s the same thing. You and I are old enough to know that those are the same things that were being said before liberation, about the ANC. That’s why people were digging trenches before the elections because they thought they were going to be driven to the sea. How can we possibly be anti-White? Our enemy is inequality and poverty and maybe our only fault is the fact that we say it as it is. We’re not going to be assuaging feelings and shy away from saying that the problem in South Africa was created by anti-Black racism (or White racism, as it were). That is the truth. We’ll never be able to address the problem if we don’t admit its existence. When we say that, it’s not about specific people or pigmentation. It’s simply a matter of fact/history that the privileged in South Africa…class and race in South Africa coincide because the majority of the privileged are White.

If you go to a squatter camp Tim, you don’t have to see anybody moving to know that the Black people live here. If you go to some spruced-up suburb, you don’t have to see a human being to know that this is a White suburb. It’s not about individuals. Our membership is open to all people (Whites and Blacks etcetera) but if they are denialists and they don’t want to accept that the key problem in South Africa is that Black people are still exactly where they were, what has happened here is that the ANC simply stepped into the shoes of the White minority regime. People are now beginning to see that no change has happened except that the oppressor is now Black and that doesn’t make any difference when it comes to the economics of the situation.

Following the march on the 27th of October, what do you hope to see happen in the medium to long-term?

Well, we’ll continue. The struggle continues. Life is not about one march. We are fighting the system on all fronts. We fight it on the streets as we did on Tuesday. We fight it in Parliament as we continuously do. We fight it in the courts. We fight it everywhere we see it. It doesn’t matter. If it’s underwater, we will find it and fight it there, so all these things work together. It’s not that we’re just going to start marching or we’re going to court. It’s ‘all systems go’. It’s a full frontal war until such time that this regime that is oppressing our people falls.

Advocate Dali Mpofu, Chairperson of the Economic Freedom Fighters, thank you very much.

Thank you very much, Tim.

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