This is a response to an article penned by Mbe Mbele titled: Bolekaja! Why The EFF Should Debate the BLF (9 May 2018).
It is always delightful to read a fresh analysis from a fellow fighter. These days, mainstream media always cleavages us with a stale analysis on political issues from the so-called political science professors and public intellectuals. Their analysis is stale because it lacks the praxis of activist thought, and is always from a position other than the ground. It has always been my contention that it is best to speak and narrate issues while on the ground, the picket lines, the door-to-door campaigns and many other spaces where our movement finds itself. Your views will always be nuanced and be informed by the realities of our people when they emerge from the ground. I am therefore happy to be reading and learning from comrade Mbe Mbele.
This is not really a response, but it should rather be seen as an attempt to converse and keep the dialogue going. Those who respond, in my humble opinion, are comrades who think that they have all the answers to all the questions. From the onset, I must put it as an honest disclaimer that I do not have all the answers.
I have always known the term Bolekaja. I have seen or heard of it many times on social media and among artists, but I did not know its meaning. I am thankful to Unathi Slasha for familiarizing you with the term, because now you have explained it to us. But, Let the term be explained to us a bit further. When one writer comes down to critique the works of another writer, he does so having acknowledged/recognized that the other writer is, in fact, as a genuine writer who contributes to the growth and development of literature.
That is to say that there exists a semblance of respect and admiration between the two writers. Their debate will therefore be genuine and sincere too, because it stems from a place a deep love. It may not be love for the personalities, but it is definitely love for art, writing and literature.
Comrade Mbe and I were both present at EFF’s National Elective Conference in Mangaung in 2014.
We were present when the grouping of Mpho Ramakatsa, Khanyisile Litchfield Tshabalala, Andile Mgxitama and others contested conference and lost. If Mbe might remember correctly, I was part of the people who formed part of the grouping that supported the faction that lost. Post-conference logic and the democratic ideals that underpin our organization suggest that once conference has democratically pronounced itself on the leadership question, all pre-conference factions, cores, groupings and cabals must automatically disband and submit to the authority of the elected leadership.
As history will show, this was not the case when it came to the comrades mentioned here. First, they formed a “Save the Soul of EFF” campaign with the view to delegitimize the results of the Mangaung conference. They did many other things, including inviting the media to epic press conferences wherein many outrageous claims of corruption and vote-rigging were made. This campaign fell flat on its face. EFF members and the general public rejected it with the contempt it deserved.
The unity of conference losers began to disintegrate. Others joined existing political parties such as UDM, ANC and PAC, while others chose to establish their own political formations. This is how BLF was formed. It is a product, not of a genuine call on the ground, but rather of comrades who refused to accept the outcomes of an elective conference. Comrades who arrogantly felt that they needed to hold positions of leadership in the EFF and that if they were not holders of such positions then the EFF would have gone to the dogs.
I am saying to you that I was part of this grouping, but unlike them, I did not have the “us or nothing” attitude. It is crudely counter-revolutionary to believe that you are more revolutionary than the rest and that the movement is doomed for failure when it is not led by you. It is narcissistic, self-serving and liberal.
I apologise for recounting a history that you already know, but the point that I want to drive home is that there is NO bona fide in the calls by BLF to debate the EFF. It is a ploy to continue the selfish factional battles of the losers of the 2014 conference.
A debate cannot happen in pursuance of or at the behest of selfish factional desires. I do not know much about BLF, but I know for a fact that the EFF is a revolutionary Marxist-Leninist party of the working class. Whenever the EFF engages in a debate, it should be to the benefit, development and advancement of the black working-class people of South Africa. I submit that I cannot think of how a debate between BLF and EFF will help the EFF achieve any of its working-class objectives.
I further submit that, there shouldn’t be a debate for the sake of merely debating, but there should be tangible targets in wanting to debate. I would imagine that after Bolekaja has been called, both writers walk away from the debate enriched and empowered. Who will empower who, when the losers of a 2014 conference are given platform to debate the very same leadership that they claimed is illegitimate?
I argue that there exists unhealthy contradictions between the EFF and BLF. Beyond the 2014 conference hangover and on the eve of being completely drowned out from public discourse, BLF received a lifeline from the Gupta family. The family started providing BLF a platform on its TV news channel ANN7 and Newspaper, The New Age (The EFF’s position on these two dodgy media outlets is already known). This assisted the BLF to have a voice and audience that they truly did not deserve.
The Gupta family also then used BLF to advance its own propaganda. The two parties had a reciprocal unholy relationship of advancing each other’s selfish agendas that do not have anything to do with the struggle or the revolution. The one wanted a space to spew its post-2014 factional bitterness, while the other wanted to be seen as a legitimate family business which doesn’t loot from the coffers of the state.
The EFF was the first organization in this country to correctly characterize the Gupta family as thugs, criminals and tricksters whose main aim is to capture all state institutions for personal monetary benefit. BLF, on the other hand, have not refuted the fact that they are funded by this family and have even gone to the extent of embracing this corrupt family.
If there is national consensus that the Gupta family have unduly benefited from taxpayer money, and there’s equal consensus that they are funding BLF, the only conclusion that can be drawn is that BLF is being funded by stolen taxpayer money. The EFF declared that the Gupta family are our class-enemy. Anybody who is a friend of the Guptas, is therefore friends with our class enemies.
To take it further, the EFF have consistently said that the Gupta family are enemies of South Africa and her progress. Accordingly, anybody who is friends with the Guptas and is funded by the Guptas is an enemy of South Africa.
Does Bolekaja mean that we should also engage in a debate with our class-enemies? I do not think so.
The debates and disagreements between Malcom X and Dr Martin Luther King were altercations between brothers and comrades. They may have been ugly and sometimes very messy, but both of them recognized each other’s bona fide agency, both acknowledged that the other was doing and saying whatever he was saying under the guise of fighting for the people. If we are to recount history correctly, Martin Luther King and Malcom X differed on the approach and methods to waging the struggle.
I should ask comrade Mbe to compare apples with apples. I mean not to paraphrase Antonio Gramsci and Chairman Mao in their teachings about contradictions. The contradictions that existed between Dr King and Malcom X were healthy. The contradictions between EFF and BLF are antagonistic. Where healthy contradictions exists, there’s space for debate and dialogue. Where the contradictions are antagonistic, they are only resolved by war. I do not mean that there should be war between BLF and EFF, but I know for certain that there is no realistic, political or ideological reason for the two to engage in any debate.
Lastly, I think it is unfair to suggest, or speak in a tone that suggests, that the leadership of the EFF fear debating with BLF. This is ridiculous and unfounded. The EFF enjoys the legitimacy of a proven constituency. A constituency that we have had to persuade and debate on a numerous occasions. The EFF continues to persuade society in everything it does.
BLF will not know this. Its constituency is Facebook and Twitter. Even when it is debated on Twitter, it resorts to blocking you. BLF has not gone through the hard mile of engaging society anywhere else other than Twitter, Facebook and ANN7. BLF must still go to Mshongo in Atteridgeville, must still go to Empumelelweni informal settlements in Witbank, it must still go to Olievenhoutsbosch and engage the very black people on whose behalf they are falsely claiming to speak.
I’m happy to engage fighter Mbe Mbele, differ and disagree with him because I know that if there would be contradictions that would emerge between us, they would be healthy. If he, or any of my comrades shout “Bolekaja!!!” I would gladly respond; woza silwe mfana! Because the call is genuine, sincere and comes from a place of love.
*** Ntando Sindane is a postgraduate student at Unisa’s department of mercantile law. He is a proud EFF activist.