EFF to field candidate for Johannesburg Mayor / Photo by: Mark Wessels / various sources / AFP

Life on Mars: The EFF’s day of scuffles and isolation

The drama which unfolded will be investigated by parliamentary authorities.


EFF to field candidate for Johannesburg Mayor / Photo by: Mark Wessels / various sources / AFP

Life can be lonely on the Red Political Planet Mars, the EFF found this week when it found itself isolated and attacked in a parliamentary debate on making all temporary jobs in the civil service permanent – the so-called insourcing debate.

Emotions between the DA and EFF ran so high that a physical confrontation took place between EFF leader Julius Malema and DA MP Denis Joseph of Riversdale.

The skirmish happened directly after Malema had made his speech calling for all temporary workers to be insourced by the state. The way the National Assembly is laid out, the only way for any member of an opposition party to return to their parliamentary bench from the podium is by passing through the DA benches.

When Malema thus passed through the DA benches, he and DA MP Ghaleb Cachalia had words, causing Malema to tell Cachalia to “voetsek” (get lost).

Investigation into EFF versus DA scuffle

Joesph then told Malema that he could not speak like that, after which Malema grabbed him by the tie and a scuffle ensued. Several DA and EFF MPs gathered in a threatening way but the issue was resolved and will be investigated by parliamentary authorities with a view to possible sanction.

The debate showed the EFF to be isolated in their demand that the state insource well-nigh all positions such as cleaners and gardeners, which would make it hard to fire such workers and ensure that they receive benefits such as pensions and medical aid.

In his speech Malema said the insourcing of jobs is one of the basic pillars of EFF policies to build a capable state. According to him, the lack of coherent government economic policy under the current ANC leadership is causing the country great harm. 

The EFF proposes an inspired, well-trained civil service of the future which is run like an effective private company.

Malema said temporary work and state tenders are two main causes of the outsourcing scourge, and must be done away with.

ANC MP Shelley Makhubela-Mashele said although as a rule of thumb the ANC preferred insourcing to outsourcing, there is no single panacea and different situations called for varying solutions.

She asked how the EFF planned to finance all these permanent positions with fringe benefits and instead called for a balance between insourcing and outsourcing, not a single ideological approach.

On behalf of the DA, its MP Cilliers Brink explained that wages and salaries in specifically unskilled and low-skilled positions had increased so much in recent times that it is understandable that calls for their insourcing would increase as well.

The danger of an ever-increasing public service wage bill

He pointed out that the state could not spend all its money on wages and salaries because nothing would be left for the delivery of basic services or social grants.

According to Brink, it is important to remember that government does not primarily exist to provide jobs in the civil service. Its primary job is to deliver services to the general population. Regarding insourcing, he said public interest must always trump the immediate financial interest of the individual worker.

EFF MP Vuyani Pambo made an emotional plea on behalf of outsourced workers, saying it was only the EFF who were agitating for them to get decent jobs.

He said in practice outsourcing was a racial issue as anyone would know who sees temporary workers being picked up in bakkies in the morning – those who drive the bakkies are all of one race, and those on the back of the bakkies are of another race.

Inkosi Elphas Buthelezi of the IFP came out against the EFF proposal. He believes firmer implementation of current labour laws is the best way to combat exploitation and that placing all workers in permanent positions would be unaffordable.

Freedom Front Plus MP Wouter Wessels said insourcing was not a race issue and that poverty would still exist even if all white people were driven into the sea. Wessels said the big problem was cadre deployment and affirmative action, and that insourcing all workers was not a solution as the civil service wage bill was already too high.