There are series of outrageous speculations that the Economic Freedom Fighters EFF of only few years in existence as a political party of benefiting financial support from certain eccentric billionaires in the country, which is now under some sort of public scrutiny.
The million dollar question now is: Is Julius Malema’s Economic Freedom Fighters being funded by controversial billionaire Nathan Kirsh and others?
A rather inflammatory photo did the rounds went viral indicative of the claim. It was a snap taken of a printed out Absa payment notification, from a donor “N Kirsh” to the EFF’s bank account, with the reference “donation”. The amount? Just shy of R9-million.
Malema has a history of poor relationship with the white South Africans, making racial, violent and threatening public statements. Malema clearly stated at a political rally in 2016 that “We [the EFF] are not calling for the slaughter of whitepeople‚ at least for now”. When asked for comment by a news agency, the ANC spokesperson, Zizi Kodwa stated that there will be no comment from the ANC, as “[h]e [Malema] was addressing his own party supporters.
It would make a juicy story, of course. Kirsh, an eccentric sort with bucketloads of money, seems to like dabbling in opposition politics. and was perhaps behind their forced merger. He’s also been linked to one conspiracy theory had it that clearly this proves the EFF is a giant project by Kirsh to undermine the ANC. There are other speculated billionaire sponsors that are apparently alleged to still be in the dark.
But here’s the thing: there’s no way to verify if that document is real. It’s more likely that it is part of dozens of attempts with the murky world of politics to cast suspicion on a party. The EFF itself has done so when it has claimed that the DA was funded by Israel, a claim some linked to Kirsh himself, funnily enough, who is a director of the Israeli defence ministry’s supplier of choice, Magal Security Systems. Malema did it again when he has said several times that those challenging his leadership from within the EFF are being funded by the ANC.
Private Funding battle
Throwing shade about a party’s funders is easy enough as there is literally no information available to the public. It’s a complete black hole so political movers can insinuate all sorts of things. I could create a mock payment notification showing the EFF has received money from President Jacob Zuma’s enemies in the ANC and quietly start circulating it on social media. Malema’s detractors would have a field day, saying this proves he is planning to return to the governing party after Zuma’s departure, as his nemesis Gayton McKenzie has claimed in an open letter earlier this year.
The problem is its all just wild rumour and conjecture and it leaves us, the voters, with even less facts to make informed decisions. Instead we’re left with more of the same old in South African politics: whipped up emotions and hysteria informing our generally poor political choices.
This latest incident is just one more reason that political parties in South Africa should be legally compelled to reveal their funding sources.
Instead of leading the way, South Africa is one of a handful of countries with no legislation regulating the funding of political parties.
Out of 116 countries studied by the International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance, which has conducted comprehensive research on the subject, 100 have banned state resources from being given to parties. South Africa isn’t one of them, and we’re among the worst on the continent as far as the lack of legislation is concerned. That’s right, the rest of Africa is outpacing us in the area of party funding. Nor does South Africa ban donations from corporations with government contracts, or state resources being given to a particular party.
Think for a minute how truly messed up that is. My business can make a massive donation to the ANC at the same time I’m bidding for a massive contract.
So how do we introduce better policy, short of activists dragging the matter to court every few years? That’s the catch-22. The Independent Electoral Commission’s chief electoral officer, Mosotho Moepya, previously told me that the a political party could suggest a change. Right.
No organisation with a healthy sense of self-interest would do this.
It is not in the interest of political parties to pass such changes into law so they won’t. In more idealist days, before the EFF got into power, Malema noted that party funding should be transparent. But once he landed a cushy Parliament job that promise, like so many others, were forgotten.
Not that it would be easy for the EFF to voluntarily reveal their funders in a vacuum. It would only work if all parties did so.
“A wealthy KwaZulu-Natal businessman gave us a substantial donation and begged us not to let the ANC find out, as it would affect his business in the province,” he said.
Helen Zille has made the same point on several occasions but seems oddly comfortable with the secrecy and in no hurry to change the situation. Sources in the DA say very few at the top of the party are privy to who the funders are. We saw a glimpse into this highly secretive world when Zille was forced to explain why she had accepted a donation from the Zuma-linked Gupta family in 2009, whom the party has repeatedly accused for corruption.
So this juicy photo of the EFF’s supposed donation from Kirsh is nothing new. It’s more dirt in an ever dirtier game and no one is willing to be the first to clean up.
As I’ve said before, we can expect parties to continue acting like schoolkids in a contest for public indecency: I’ll show you mine if you show me yours.
Kirsch has since indicated that the document was indeed a fake and that he does not bank with Absa and has not donated to the EFF.