EFF deputy president Floyd Shivambu Picture: FREDDY MAVUNDA/FINANCIAL MAIL
EFF deputy president Floyd Shivambu Picture: FREDDY MAVUNDA/FINANCIAL MAIL

The EFF is set to shake up the political space once again in 2019, as it eyes government positions ahead of the polls.

The party believes the general election is unlikely to usher in an outright winner and its deputy president, Floyd Shivambu, told Business Day on Wednesday that the EFF’s days as "spectators" were over.

Shivambu said his party aimed to be in government after the 2019 polls.

Opposition parties have gained a lot of traction in the last few years from the scandals and unpopularity of the Jacob Zuma government. But the election of Cyril Ramaphosa as head of the ANC and the country stalled that momentum somewhat.

Ramaphosa’s win and Zuma’s removal ushered in a host of new possibilities on the political terrain.

For instance, after seven months with Ramaphosa at the helm, the ANC has met most of the demands set by the EFF to enter into an agreement with it.

Key among these was the issue of the expropriation of land without compensation.

The EFF celebrates five years since its inception on Thursday, with pollsters Ipsos placing the party’s support at a mere 7%.

Shivambu said that in 2016 the party simply "folded its arms" and voted to ensure the ANC lost grip of key metros.

Not this time.

Shivambu said it was clear that in 2019 there will be no outright winner in many provinces and potentially at national level. The EFF would thus be poised to take up government positions in potential political agreements.

"What is a clear possibility for now is that there won’t be an outright winner in 2019 and what that translates to … is that the EFF becomes government as well.

"We are not going to be spectators from 2019 onwards.

"We folded our arms after the 2016 local elections because we wanted to observe certain things in terms of what happens. We have observed those things.

"We wanted to build capacity … so next year there won’t be an outright winner in SA and whatever happens, the EFF will be in government at any level of the state and possibly at all levels of the state," he said.

However, Shivambu steered clear of the word "coalitions" and analysts said it was entirely possible that the party was positioning itself to negotiate for posts in government even without entering into formal coalition or co-operation agreements.

"We will decide what is the form of participation for government, but one thing [that] is for sure is we are not going to be spectators," Shivambu said.

His comments do suggest that the EFF’s electoral strategy could include it becoming a fully fledged participant in potential coalitions after the polls.

Political analyst Somadoda Fikeni said that the EFF might become kingmakers after the elections and therefore could begin to "demand deployment".

"The exercise of power and influence goes beyond what meets the eye," he said.

The EFF could, for instance, ask for positions on key boards for strategic members of their party, Fikeni said. However, he also added that it was too early to say whether the ANC would fall below the threshold required in the provinces and nationally and that the governing party should not be underestimated.

While a notable shift in EFF strategy is evident — with critics arguing that it went from fighting state capture to fighting attempts to uproot it — Shivambu says this perception is incorrect.

The EFF has recently backed dubious characters such as suspended South African Revenue Service boss Tom Moyane, controversial Transnet CE Siyabonga Gama as well as the embattled leadership of the VBS Mutual Bank.

He says the EFF taking on Finance Minister Nhlanhla Nene and Public Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan is consistent with its approach on tackling corruption and defeating capitalism.

With Genevieve Quintal