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The “Economic Freedom Fighters” and their Freedom Cheater

The “Economic Freedom Fighters” and their Freedom Cheater

Frantz Fanon once posited that the fundamental problem of Africa is the lack of ideology. In addition to this, Fanon stated that central to decolonisation is the restoration of land. While we agree with Fanon regarding the essence of decolonisation, we disagree with him regarding ideology especially in the context of “South Africa”. We posit that the fundamental problem in “South Africa” as far as Africans are concerned is the lack of a correct ideology. The lack of a correct ideology to liberate Africans in “South Africa” and from “South Africa” has resulted in the hegemony of an incorrect ideology. This ideology is Charterism. Charterism is a name given by Peter Raboroko in The Africanist Case, to those who subscribe to a document they call the Freedom Charter, which Motsoko Pheko calls the “Freedom Cheater”. Recently the so-called Economic Freedom Fighters under their leader Julius Malema celebrated this incorrect ideology and were even significantly joined by one prominent subscriber within the African National Congress. This is not surprising since the ANC has been the leading custodian of the Freedom Cheater since the split of the Pan-Africanist Congress. This split gave birth to the antagonism between the Charterists and the Africanists. For this piece, this split also galvanised the antagonism between the democratisation paradigm of the Charterists and the decolonisation paradigm of the Africanists.

This piece is not about the Freedom Cheater as an economic document. The debate around whether the Freedom Cheater provides for nationalisation as discussed in a document called Nationalisation co-authored by Temba A. Nolutshungu and company from the Free Market Foundation as “South African von Hayek’s second-hand dealers of ideas” is not our concern here. We are interested in the Freedom Charter as a historical document, its celebration by Malema and company and the implications of freedom. Isiah Berlin in Two Concepts of Liberty posits the existence of negative and positive freedom, which we will formulate as freedom from something and freedom to do something. Given conquest since 1652 by European conquerors, Africans who pursue liberation, want freedom from land dispossession and epistemic self-determination so that they can exercise their freedom to restore African self-determination and independence.

The Freedom Cheater states infamously that “South Africa belongs to all who live in it, black and white”. This Cheater does not explain how Africans became black, how “South Africa” came into being and how whites came to belong to it. Well, Africans of Azania became black due to European conquest which laid the foundation for “South Africa” to which whites belong as white settlers following their dispossession of African land since 1652. “South Africa” which is conquered Azania, came into being based on land dispossessed from Africans in the form of two colonies and two republics which were consolidated by white settlers such as Jan Smuts in 1910 through the Union Act of 1909. In its formation as a white settler colony “South Africa” belonged to this day to whites only. Whites are the originators of “South Africa” and blacks are those who seek incorporation into it. This black integrationist objective captures the essence of the democratisation paradigm and the stupid contradictions of the so-called black South Africans such as Operation Dudula. The decolonisation paradigm on the other hand seeks to destroy “South Africa” as a white settler colony, because Africans never belonged to it and to restore a post-conquest Africa/Azania based on Africa for the Africans. By celebrating the Freedom Cheater Malema and company show that they do not want freedom from but freedom within “South Africa”. Thus, they are fighting for freedom for the impossible equality between the European conquerors and conquered Africans. It is in this sense that just like the ANC, the so-called Economic Freedom Fighters are not part of the liberation movement but an extension of the ANC as a Civil Rights movement in “South Africa”. This also explains why Malema and company do not question the dubious legitimacy of the current anti-African constitution. If the Freedom Charter was the Freedom Cheater of the Apartheid period, then the current constitution is the Freedom Cheater of the post-apartheid era. Both these Freedom Cheaters are products of non-Africans such as Ben Turok and Albie Sachs. In its preamble the current constitution in the spirit of Charterism states "we the people of South Africa".

So, Malema and company are consistent about their Freedom Cheater despite Malema’s annoying hollow revolutionary rhetoric and absurd contradictions. This also explains why Malema is working with Helen Zille. Archie Mafeje warned us about black nationalists and white liberals being “strange bedfellows”. Anton Muziwakhe Lembede made it clear as an Africanist that “Africans are natives of Africa, they and Africa are one, their relation to Africa is superior to the relations of other sections of the populations…it is evidently wrong to place Africans on a footing of equality with other racial groups at present residing in Africa” (our italics). To paraphrase Lembede, Africans are people of the soil while non-Africans are people on the soil. By working with white settlers like Zille in accordance with the Freedom Cheater, Malema is himself a freedom cheater and not a freedom fighter.

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Masilo Lepuru

Masilo Lepuru

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One of the dangerous disadvantages of the failure of the Azanian revolutionary project, as symbolized by Poqo’s “one settler, one bullet” battle cry, is that the liberal nonracialism of the Charterists managed to redeem abelumbi/ wizards or white settlers.

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