Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) national chairperson Zovuyo Mente (ZM) joined senior reporter, Blessed Mhlanga (BM) on Free Talk, the Friedrich Naumann Foundation-sponsored Heart & Soul TV programme, to discuss South Africa-Zimbabwe relations. The EFF says it believes that for democracy to flourish, Zimbabweans in South Africa must return home to vote. EFF is the third largest political party in South Africa led by the militant Julius Malema. The EFF describes itself as “a radical and militant economic emancipation movement, formed in 2013, with the aim of bringing together revolutionary, militant activists, community-based organisations as well as lobby groups under the umbrella of the political party pursuing the struggle of economic emancipation”. Below are excerpts from the interview:
BM: I would like to understand from EFF how it views Zimbabwe-South Africa relations.
ZM: Firstly, we are very delighted that you have agreed to have an interview with us. It is very busy this side. We are preparing for the EFF 10th anniversary. We are on the ground. We are Pan Africanists and therefore Zimbabwe, for us, is not another country. Zimbabwe, for us, is an African country with African brothers and sisters. We treat it as a sister country. Without Zimbabwe, there is no us and that's how we relate to the people of Zimbabwe.
BM: But there is this issue here. We have had xenophobic attacks and as elections come closer in South Africa, politicians are using this as a campaigning strategy to say Zimbabweans must go back home.
ZM: For now, we do recognise the democracy of Zimbabwe as well as its own sovereignty. They must undergo the process of renewing leadership of the country and elect new a cabinet, new president and have a new term of parliament, which is going to govern the entire Zimbabwe. It is very important for Zimbabweans to make sure that they cast a vote, they have a voice and democratically be allowed to choose a government of their choice.
They must be allowed to choose a government that they feel is suitable for Zimbabwe to go forward. So, if it means that Zimbabweans must go home from every corner of the country, that’s what the EFF is also advocating for.
BM: I was looking at what the African National Congress secretary-general, Fikile Mbalula, said. He claimed that half of South Africa was now Zimbabwe.
ZM: There is nothing that Zimbabweans have done wrong in South Africa. We have to deal with our issues as South Africans. The government must never run away and try to justify its failures through the presence of foreign nationals in our country.
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We do not agree that they are foreign nationals; they are our brothers and sisters that are in Africa, in the same way that the African Union has agreed that we must have one trading bloc.
How is that movement of goods going to go about if we are going to justify the failures of our governments and failing to provide services to the citizens of each and every country by saying there are actually hindering the services of government.
There is always a xenophobic mentality that the people of Zimbabwe are taking jobs in South Africa. Which jobs are taken by Zimbabweans in South Africa that South Africans cannot take. South Africans are free to do everything but whichever space that Zimbabweans would go and work in are allowed by bosses and company owners that are here in South Africa.
Company owners, in particular white people who own the means of production, employ Zimbabwean for exploitation because they know that they are not from South Africa.
BM: You say you are preparing for the EFF’s 10th anniversary. How has been the ride?
ZM: It has been tough. It has been a long journey. However, it has been a fulfilling journey because our advocacy and the radicalism has been revived. We have brought back the Pan Africanism agenda. We have brought back what South African citizens have adopted as a freedom charter that was charting a way forward for a better life for every black child in South Africa.
We do not stop telling the people that the issue which Zimbabwe has been driving successfully, the issue of land, is the issue that all of us will have to confront. It is the issue that all of us must address, it is the issue that is going to free all of us because without land there is no economy that we are going to build.
Every economy is build based on the land and if we are still dispossessed as black people, there is no economy that we are going to build. There are no industries that we are going to build. There is no state that is going to be successful if its own people do not have access to land.
BM: But you face what you call traditional revolutionary political parties, which is something that is unique
ZM: It’s not an easy journey but what is most important is (talking to) society in order to have their backing. There is no war anyone can win if you do not have the buying in of the people.
BM: What is the interest of EFF in Saviour Kasukuwere … as a presidential candidate?
ZM: There is no particular interest or agenda. But we are appreciating and what we are advocating for is democracy, allow democracy to flourish.