Mbuyiseni Ndlozi and Julius Malema. Picture: Thapelo Morebudi/Sunday Times
Mbuyiseni Ndlozi and Julius Malema. Picture: Thapelo Morebudi/Sunday Times

A few weeks ago Nobesuthu Hejana, an eNCA journalist covering the protest against Clicks, ended up on the wrong side of a raging EFF supporter in Goodwood in the Western Cape.

The EFF supporter took offence at her being there, pushed and shoved her and told her to move away.

To understand why the EFF did this, we must go back to 2019, during the party’s elective conference. Then, the EFF refused to allow certain media houses — Daily Maverick, amaBhungane and Rapport — from attending.

For a party that supposedly believed in transparency and clean government, it was an unfortunate move. And it led to eNCA, illustrating its solidarity with the other media houses, also refusing to cover the event. EFF leader Julius Malema took furious offence and said eNCA shouldn’t cover the party’s events in future.

Fast forward to September this year and the Clicks protest, and it’s clear the red berets hold grudges like nobody’s business.

Of course the EFF was right to take Clicks to task — for a respected retailer to put up such an ad campaign is misguided and points to a business not sufficiently attuned to the country the company operates in — but that doesn’t give the party the right to behave as it wishes.

Malema labelled the protest “peaceful”, even though it very clearly involved intimidating shoppers and damaging property.

But the harassment of Hejana revealed much about the party.

In a country where gender-based violence is such an intractable problem, the fact that SA’s third-largest party seemingly felt nothing about acting violently towards a woman is deeply troubling in itself.

What made it immediately worse, however, was the attitude of some of the EFF’s top chiefs towards Hejana’s harassment.

Mbuyiseni Ndlozi, the EFF’s former spokesperson, said this: “I really do not see harassment here. Merely touching her is not harassment. The touch has to be violent, invasive, or harmful to become harassment.”

It was such an awful response, not least because Ndlozi was projecting how women should feel when violence is perpetrated upon them.

It helped — though not entirely — that he later apologised, saying: “It was an irresponsible tweet, giving licence to the violent treatment of women. It was also hurtful and made many who’ve suffered violence relive this pain.”

But what remains concerning is the reflexive instinct of the EFF leadership to defend any step by its leadership, no matter how transparently awful it is.

Perhaps they feel they can. Malema, and the party, are skilled at trying to control the narrative, after all. Like when Malema organised a press conference with handpicked media attendees and told them to ask any question they desired about the party supposedly benefiting from VBS Mutual Bank money.

It was a smart gambit, designed to paint him as a model of accountability who would never shy away from media scrutiny. Many people even bought that ruse.

The point is, as SA inches towards an election next year we need to be far more sceptical of the parties who represent us. Even though they may apologise later, as Ndlozi did in this case, we need to consider whether these are the parties whose ethics and values we support.

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