“The third strike is always the luckiest,” the saying goes. Well, that may not be the case for intellectual-turned-politician Andile Mngxitama.
Mngxitama is a well known South African Bikoist (intellectual) and activist. In 2013 he decided to put down his thinking cap and pen in order to plunge head-first into politics.
Despite Mgxitama’s sometimes brash manner, he is a deep thinker and a sincere activist. This is certainly going to be his pitfall in South African politics, which is characterized by back-scratching and sycophancy.
Mngxitama has been vocal about the leadership of the EFF Commander-in-Chief, Julius Malema.
The first Mngxitama-Malema showdown came in strongly worded column published by the Sowetan in 2011. Mngxitama complained about Malema’s opulent lifestyle and accused him of being “just another ruthless politician” who raised “issues, not to solve them, but to trick the poor who have been waiting for a better life for all for almost 20 years now under [ANC] rule.”
He accused Malema of paying lip service to the plight of South Africans while he amassed great amounts of wealth through political influence.
In 2013, Mngxitama put these views aside and joined forces with Malema to establish the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF), a political party and breakaway of the African National Congress Youth League. The EFF Manifesto had his ink-print all over.
The second showdown came during the EFF’s first elective conference in December 2014. A tearful Mngxitama declined a nomination because of voting irregularities. He appealed to Malema not to let the party descend to chaos. “Comrade president, protect this movement. I spoke to fighters and was going to accept, but my revolutionary consciousness cannot allow me to accept the nomination,” he said.
Andile Mngxitama declining a nomination to the EFF central command. Credit: EWN.
Malema dismissed Mngxitama’s impassioned appeal with callous indifference. “We cannot be blamed because of whoever was not elected…. We are not going to nurse individuals’ feelings,” he said.
Mngxitama, now the EFF Commissar for Land and a Member of Parliament, has lashed out for the third time. He spoke publicly about recent media reports that the EFF in the North West province is paying a convicted murderer Papiki Babuile to run party affairs from a prison cell.
Babuile was convicted for the murder of regional African National Congress (ANC) regional secretary David Chikand and sentenced to 12 years in prison. The EFF confirmed that he is still the party’s secretary general in the North West province. He still receives a salary.
Mngxitama complained that the EFF is failing to uphold the very high accountability standards that it set for others. The party is failing to fight corruption, he said.
Mngxitama says he did not join the EFF to create a political system that is rotten. He cautioned that should he “be dealt” with, presumably by Julius Malema, it will be confirmation that the EFF “imported the worst of ANC [practices]”.
Others have suggested that Mngxitama will not survive this latest spat. I am inclined to agree. He is too principled for politics.
However, my take is that we, citizens and non-politicians, have a duty to protect him. We need more principled, thinking politicians. Whether we agree with their politics or not, principled politicians are a glimmer of hope for South Africa, and for the continent.
We must ask ourselves, how did President Robert Mugabe survive for so long? How did Yoweri Museveni survive, despite writing a book scorning African leaders who stay in office for too long? How did Thabo Mbeki get away with AIDS denialism for as long as he did? The answer: sycophants and Yes Men/Women.
Mngxitama is of that rare breed of politicians, like Thomas Sankara, Rolihlahla Mandela and the likes, who join politics to serve. And we, as citizens, must stand up for that.
The only way to protect Mngxitama is to appeal to members of the EFF to stand up for him and to defend his right to dissent.