Gareth van Onselen Profile picture
Mar 16 18 tweets 3 min read Twitter logo Read on Twitter
1|18 There seems to be a general misunderstanding of the EFF’s proposed national shutdown. It isn’t to protest, disrupt or intimidate, it is to test the revolutionary waters. Here is how:
2|18 Whatever you make of the EFF pseudo-revolutionary credentials externally, it is important to understand that, internally, the EFF absolutely regards itself as a revolutionary movement.
3|18 As such, it is in the business of revolution. For the EFF the fundamental edifice that is South Africa is inverted and unjust, with the rich at the top and the poor at bottom. It seeks to upturn all this. And revolution is how it seeks to accomplish it.
4|18 Because its support is capped - there simply isn’t a majority market for fundamental socialism in SA - it needs a volatile environment to achieve this. And from there, it just needs to “trip the switch”. That is its analysis.
5|18 It has many of the ingredients for this: acute poverty and joblessness, rampant corruption, a profound loss of faith in the state and the organs of law and order. Much else besides. Load-shedding naturally exacerbates this social instability.
6|18 And, from the EFF’s perspective, there is some other encouraging recent precedent: the riots and looting that swept through KZN. Also the result of a “tripped switch”. All this, the EFF regards as fertile ground for revolution. It’s not entirely wrong.
7|18 To this end, the EFF regularly tests the revolutionary waters. It called for a national shutdown in 2018 (over healthcare) and 2022 (over government incompetence). Had Covid not been around, there would have been more of these.
8|18 They are supplemented by other “tests”. Calls to occupy all the mines, or ABSA branches. Always it uses some contemporary, volatile grievance to mobilise: racism, Life Esidimeni, etc. Always it is seeing if the switch can be tripped.
9|18 To date it has been wholly unsuccessful. All its calls for national action have been laughable; some, (the ABSA occupation) have never happened at all. But that is not the point, each time it evaluating the country’s pain threshold.
10|18 Consider these remarks from Malema, in an interview with the BBC last year: Image
11|18 Malema also said in that interview: “when the unled revolution comes… the first target is going to be white people.” Every revolution needs a readily identifiable enemy. But he will use anything to trigger a mass uprising.
12|18 Look how he attempted to fuel the KZN riots by opposing the deployment of the SANDF. Look at how the EFF celebrated the burning of parliament (“it is a beautiful fire”).
13|18 Malema thus wants three things: 1. An unled revolution 2. To be able to assume leadership of that revolution when it comes. 3. Until then, to position himself as the true voice of the people, and the bulwark between democracy, revolution and its consequences.
14|18 On Monday Malema will test the revolutionary waters again. Load-shedding is the contemporary crisis. His measure will not be if it succeeds or fails, but whether or not there is clear evidence temperatures are rising compared to before.
15|18 On that front too there is much for him to be encouraged about. The response to this proposed shutdown has been much more panicked. Threats of violence have helped that, but that is all part of the plan.
16|18 In the coming months and years, you will see the EFF continue to do this. The thing you need to be scared about is not, however, the EFF; it is the social volatility the ANC has created. It is the fuel the EFF seeks to ignite.
17|18 Here is former President Thabo Mbeki on the problem last year: Image
18|18 In conclusion: it is important to understand, the EFF is only ever as strong as the volatile environment the ANC creates for it. The two are working together, informally, to manufacture the explosion Mbeki refers to. Unchecked, eventually the EFF will find the right switch.

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More from @GvanOnselen

Mar 13
1|24 Long Thread. The DA is losing legitimacy, here is why: A look at the DA electoral performance over the last 20 years, in terms of votes won, and by party leader, with a view to some of the fundamental problems facing that party, and which PR won’t solve.
2|24 Here is the total number of votes the DA won in every election since 2004:
2004: 1,931,201 (Leon)
2006: 1,608,154 (Leon)
2009: 2,945,829 (Zille)
2011: 3,216,006 (Zille)
2014: 4,091,584 (Zille)
2016: 4,028,765 (Maimane)
2019: 3,621,188 (Maimane)
2021: 2,543,764 (Steenhuisen)
3|24 You cannot compare national and local government elections, however. Turnout differs dramatically. So, in the next two tweets, I have differentiated the DA national election results from the DA local government election results.
Read 24 tweets
Sep 30, 2022
Thread. Some thoughts on Action SA. The party has two competing impulses: 1st, a disdain for the ANC and a desire to remove it from power. 2nd, a disdain for the DA, and a desire to replace it as the official opposition, absorb its representatives and eat into its market. 1|11
This has produced a conflict, between ASA on paper (opposed to the ANC) and its real world internal culture (the DA is the enemy - ASA is constituted almost entirely of ex-DA representatives, each of who feels aggrieved about the DA, and wishes to enact revenge on it). 2|11
The result is a party torn between the big national priority - ridding SA of the ANC - and personal vendetta - damaging the DA, which undermines the big picture objective. You see this in all ASA comms. The visceral disgust for both parties. 3|11
Read 11 tweets
Jan 7, 2022
Thread. Cyril Ramaphosa has yet to say a single directly critical thing about Jacob Zuma, and how he conducted himself as President. In the other direction, he has had a lot of positive things to say about Zuma (see here for example:…) 1/10
Ramaphosa now has Part 1 of the Zondo Report, which is damning about Zuma. He also has the ANC’s 8 January speech to deliver. It would seem the perfect opportunity for Ramaphosa to directly and honesty address Zuma’s legacy. 2/10
That said, you can be fairly sure Ramaphosa won’t mention him at all. Which leaves us with a curious situation. Here we have a former president, compromised in profound ways, and a party that cannot be honest about the damage he caused. Why is that? 3/10
Read 10 tweets
Nov 24, 2021
In 2008 @RyanCoetzee, then DA CEO, started the DA Young Leaders program. Today, its alumni include Solly Malatsi, Cilliers Brink, Nicole Graham, Gwen Ngwenya, Ashor Sarupen, Geordin Hill-Lewis, Mbali Ntuli, Magashule Gana, Mirelle Wegner, Siviwe Gwarube, many others besides. 1/4
They have, between them, risen to the highest ranks, as political heads, as public representatives and within government. MPs, MPLs, Councilors, Mayors. The names above only touch on the full cohort now out there and in the DA. Too many to mention. 2/4
It is remarkable the that the programme garners so little attention, given how obsessed everyone is about “the youth”. It is unique in SA politics. Its impact on the DA has been profound, and the depth and breadth of the talent to have passed through it, quite something. 3/4
Read 4 tweets
Oct 30, 2021
1/16 Thread on some of the ANC’s more infamous election quotes. The mad, the bad, and the sad. Let’s start with an oldie but a goodie - That time the ANC said service delivery was only for people who voted ANC:
2/16 That time the ANC said it won’t be pressured by people using their vote to demand better deliver, because those were “dirty votes”:
3/16 That time the ANC said God and Jesus and the ancestors would ensure it would definitely win Nelson Mandela Bay, and then it didn’t:
Read 16 tweets
Oct 21, 2021
Thread. One of the great contradictions of our age is almost ubiquitous ANC corruption, across the board, well-evidenced and serious, and yet not a single ANC cadre (certainly not anyone in high office) who has ever admitted to actually being guilty of corruption. 1/8
The result is a curious set of circumstances, whereby you have the president endlessly promising to end corruption, which he says is an acute problem, and pleading with his members for a culture of clean governance, and yet clearly no one ever thinks he is talking about them. 2/8
Instead, you have denial (these are “politically motivated” or “trumped up” charges), blame (someone else is really responsible) and the rise of the conspiracy theory (some aggrieved third party is framing me for some or other vindictive reason). 3/8
Read 8 tweets

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