Delegates burning T-shirts, swearing and arguing, and finally walking out of the hall, disrupted the EFF’s national people’s assembly held at the University of Free State’s campus in Bloemfontein on Monday.
What started as a well-organised gathering, with well-behaved delegates, was thrown into disarray when it was time to elect 35 additional members to form part of the Economic Freedom Fighters’ central command team.
As nominations got under way, some of the delegates started complaining about a list of 35 people that was handed out. One by one, delegates nominated the people on the list and endorsed them.
The atmosphere changed when EFF leader Julius Malema told those raising objections to write to the steering committee and allow the committee to decide on the validity of the complaints.
Delegates from Gauteng province, which was the most vocal, stormed out of the hall and started protesting outside. They sang, danced and burnt T-shirts.
“We would rather go back to the ANC,” one chanted.
“Malema is a liar,” said another.
While outside singing and dancing, a small group told the media that the list was imposed on them.
“This was not democratic. They gave us this list. We did not nominate these people. Julius Malema is a liar,” one of them said.
The group accused Malema of using African National Congress tendencies to get his people into positions of power.
“How can you impose a list to delegates. If he wants to go to the ANC, he must go.”
They sang that Malema was a traitor.
Some of the people who were on the list declined the nomination and expressed disappointment over what had happened.
Member of Parliament Andile Mngxitama was one of those who declined.
He walked to the microphone and softly gave his reasons.
“Comrade president, please protect this movement. Initially I was going to accept but my revolutionary consciousness will not allow me to accept,” he said and turned away.
Delegates from Gauteng clapped and ululated. They started singing “lento e uyenzayo a I lunganga” (what you’re doing is not right).
Malema however dismissed the complaints.
MP Khanyisile Litchfield-Tshabalala also declined her nomination and asked delegates to give her more time within the organisation before she accepted such a position.
“Allow me to be a follower in the EFF for the next five years. It’s safer that way. It is progressive and safe for both the EFF and myself to decline nomination,” she said.
Another MP, Primrose Sonti also declined her nomination. National coordinator Mpho Ramakatsa, who lost out in the position of secretary general on Sunday night during the election of the top six, was also nominated but he was not present.
His name was however not on the list of the 35.
Malema said Ramakatsa was still a member of the party.
“He is still a member, it is up to him to decide what he wants to do,” Malema told journalists after the conference.
When some of the Gauteng delegates had left the hall, Malema lashed out at Mngxitama.
“Why do you say I must save the organisation? From what?,” he asked, looking in the direction of Gauteng delegates.
“We cannot be blamed because of whoever was not elected… members exercised their right and there’s nothing I could do about that.”
Mngxitama, a Gauteng delegate, had at that stage already left the hall with several others.
Malema said the EFF would not “nurse individuals’ feelings.
“We are not going to nurse individuals’ feelings, anyone who gets offended by a democratic outcome has themselves to blame.”
He had been told that some disgruntled people were burning things outside the hall, Malema said.
“I don’t know what or why they’re doing that… but they have themselves to blame,” he said.
Regarding the typed list of 35 additional members, Malema said the names were written down after agreements were made between provinces.
“It was decided that because, say for example, Eastern Cape delegates could not pronounce the names of Limpopo candidates, they then all agreed to write them down in a form of a list,” he said to a loud applause.
Delegates on the list of 35 who were elected were called up to the stage.
Malema congratulated them.
The delegates were due to form commissions and hold closed sessions on Monday night. SAPA