HAJI MOHAMED DAWJEE: The EFF, from bold to boring
South Africans have never been short on inspiration in the art of disrupting politics and government, but things truly caught traction in 2014 when EFF members disrupted Parliament during former President Jacob Zuma’s State of the Nation Address where he was heckled by the “workers party” to pay back the money spent on his Nkandla homestead.
At the time, the EFF represented a more cohesive South Africa. One where citizens could all unite under that banner of disappointment and exhaustion about Zuma’s inferior leadership. And so, the hope of a new political party was born - one that would usurp old leadership with great disruption.
It was only a matter of time. The state of the nation was bleak. The landscape was barren and in need of fresh green-shoots populism.
The EFF's appeal and stance against anti-elitist sentiment and a government that sought only to fulfil selfish needs had the potential to bloom into something more than a political party which was seen as an outsider of the system.
In many ways, the Sona 2014 “pay back the money” protest was just what the nation needed in the fight against officials who received misplaced benefits and exercised exponential amounts of corruption.
The party’s incessant shouting in the assembly led to the halting of the address. As a result, the National Assembly determined that the EFF’s behaviour constituted contempt of Parliament in terms of the Powers, Privileges and Immunities of Parliament and Provincial Legislatures Act.
The disruption warranted a harsh punishment. It was found that 21 EFF MPs‚ including Julius Malema and Floyd Shivambu, were guilty of contempt of Parliament. And 12 of them were, in fact, suspended without pay for between 14 and 30 days. Other members were fined the equivalent of 14 days salary.
Still, it was only a matter of time before the “rise of the great disruption” captured an event like Sona.
Disruption is good. It speaks the language of the unsatisfied citizen and it thrives under conditions of a twisted status quo that fails to serve the needs of an ever-evolving public. Without “controversial” action, the EFF may not have existed… and flourished. They resembled a force of change for a public who were thirsty for transformation and frustrated with political system. It was a bold move. And in many ways, it did pay off.
The self-proclaimed workers party, in their red overalls and domestic worker uniforms, had solidified their stance as the representation of disorder. And while disorder serves, the party’s incessant need to settle so comfortably into this role has resulted in a disorder that fails to serve and serves to destroy. And their destruction has become an act of self-fulfilment.
This year, the EFF threatened to disrupt Sona once again. And so they did. As I watched the drama unfold once more, I found my fondness for their controversy - and to be fair, entertainment value - evolve into something more sullen. Even their wit and in some instances comedic value could not distract me from the negative thoughts that started to simmer in my soul.
WATCH: 'Pravin must go!' EFF disruption forces Sona suspension
At a time when South Africa sits on the verge of economic failure due to lack of growth, broken parastatal systems and recurring load shedding with landslide effects, it seemed to me that the lights of the EFF had truly been turned off.
Their behaviour served no purpose in leading a public out of a dark present and potentially darker future when they spent almost over an hour haggling the House Speaker and members of Parliament about a long list of “inconveniences”.
It started with insisting FW De Klerk be removed as a guest, (please note, that this was based on the comments the former president made last week when he said apartheid was not a crime against humanity. The hatred and hurt is not misplaced. However, had their passions to incite change been authentic, the EFF had five days to protest the decision of his invitation - they did not).
Then their ire turned to Pravin Gordhan, a long-standing irritation on the skin of the EFF. It became clear to me that their intervention was not for the people, it was for themselves.
The EFF's disruption of Sona is no longer a matter of profound revolutionary intervention - as we've seen in previous years. They have regressed into a group that merely seeks to disrupt the dissemination of information that fellow South Africans are waiting to hear.
The EFF stands for the people, that’s their whole purpose in Parliament… or so it seemed. But the fact that their mere representation in that House assigns them a certain amount of elite and privilege cannot be overlooked. Their gaslighting was cheap and childish. And frankly, it was quite boring.
The instability in the House is a perfect metaphor for the instability of the country. The health of the House is the health of the government. However, chaos only cripples us further and we move further away from the solidity that frankly, we cannot survive without.
No institution can claim perfection. To say they can is delusional. Our state has unparalleled disadvantages. But this type of inferior protest doesn't address any of these disadvantages. It doesn't make planes fly, it doesn't create jobs and it most certainly does not turn the f&cking lights on.
Haji Mohamed Dawjee is a South African columnist, disruptor of the peace and the author of 'Sorry, Not Sorry: Experiences of a brown woman in a white South Africa'. Follow her on Twitter.