Why does the racially divisive Marxist-socialist Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF), South Africa’s third-largest political party, hate the Springboks, the country’s national rugby union team? The Springbok outfit is by leaps and bounds the country’s most successful sports team. They have brought home gold from no less than three Rugby World Cups, in 1995, 2007, and, most recently, in 2019 where they comfortably defeated England in the final. There are only two international rugby union teams in the world to have won three World Cups: the Springboks and the mighty All Blacks. So, this is no small achievement for the country at the tip of the African continent.
But why does the EFF hate the Springbok rugby team? The answer is very simple and it is also very revealing concerning the strategy of the party. We need to remember, or begin by noting, that the EFF is a Marxist socialist and communist party. According to their stance, they draw “inspiration from the broad Marxist-Leninist tradition and Fanonian schools of thought in their analyses of the state, imperialism, culture and class contradictions in every society” (1). The party has taken inspiration from the so-called Marxist “African Che Guevara” in the form of Thomas Sankara, the twentieth-century president of Burkina Faso from 1983 to 1987.
When it comes to South African politics, the EFF’s Marxist strategy is clear: they stereotype Blacks as the exploited proletariat and Whites as the oppressive bourgeois. Consider the party’s leader Julius Malema’s following quote stereotyping all Whites in the country as the ones who own all the wealth (this was in response to recent xenophobic attacks in the country, which pitted Black South Africans against Black foreigners working in the country),
“Our anger is directed at wrong people. Like all of us, our African brothers & sisters are selling their cheap labour for survival. The owners of our wealth is white monopoly capital; they are refusing to share it with us & the ruling party #ANC protects them” (2).
Again from Malema suggesting Whites to own all the wealth,
“For their apartheid, for their rape for their murder. When they apologise, they must do it the African way. We need cattle… a synonym of money. They must pay us billions and billions” (3).
Malema’s view is quite clear: Whites are foreigners in South Africa who illegally own land and all the wealth whereas Blacks are excluded from the economy. Whites are also dangerously demonized as the descendants of a people who raped and murdered Blacks, and care nothing for the plight of Blacks today. As many have noticed, Malema’s views on White South Africans are worryingly inconsistent. On occasion, he seems to make a place for them in South Africa should they exist under his government in obedience to certain conditions imposed on them. On other occasions, he has stated the possibility of killing them off entirely if the need arises (4).
There is no doubt that Malema’s government would nationalize and seize all private wealth and property owned by Whites (and anyone else). As the party has stated, they intend to nationalize all land, banks, and mines (5). When it comes to Black South Africans, Malema stereotypes them entirely as oppressed under the domineering Whites. Although there is some truth to Malema’s views since wealth and land is still in majority in White hands in this country, despite Whites being a minority, Malema does overlook certain important social realities. He does not consider Blacks who are wealthy or own the means of production (private companies, who are CEOs, or in managerial positions, etc.). He does not mention Whites who are unemployed or living in poverty and those Whites struggling to make a living. But these are also realities in South Africa, yet for the EFF there is no grey area at all. There are just two opposing classes: the oppressed Black proletariat and the oppressive White bourgeois.
The goal of Malema and the EFF is thus to ignite the spark to revolution or civil war by inciting racial tensions between the two opposing classes. In the context of protests in the town of Senekal in 2019, Malema was quite willing, if not desiring, for a full-fledged civil war. When asked on live television about the prospect of a civil war in that town (since racial tensions were high), Malema replied “So be it” (6). The EFF is a party that will incite violence and civil war to achieve its ends if they could do so or had the power to do so. And this is why they hate the Springboks so much.
When the Springboks won the World Cup, EFF spokesperson Mbuyiseni Ndlozi told the White players to “get their congratulations from Prince Harry” (7), obviously a racial slur given the Whites in the team. White South Africans according to this rhetoric are foreigners in the country, or, as has become increasingly popular in the radical Black youth, “settlers.” Ndlozi went on to tweet that “The Springboks are a white supremacist sign that belongs in the dustbin of history.” This led to a considerable backlash on social media by South Africans who saw the victory as a success and a symbol of unity that this country so desperately needs.
The threat the Springboks pose to the EFF is simply racial and cultural unity. Although Ndlozi accused the Springboks of being a “white-dominated team”, the reality is that there are many non-Whites in the team who constitute some of its most skilled players. At least seven of the starting fifteen who took the field in the final against England were non-White (five Blacks and two Coloureds), making it the most diverse Springbok team to date.
When there was a backlash and Ndlozi was questioned about the non-Whites in the team (8), Ndlozi claimed that he was being misunderstood (9). He indeed celebrates “the type of black excellence that has been demonstrated by the black players.” But what about Whites? When it comes to them there is nothing worth celebrating. They are the devils and oppressors, members of the bourgeois, who must go receive their congratulations from Prince Harry. Fortunately, South Africa’s president Cyril Ramaphosa was there in Japan to congratulate his country’s rugby team on their victory.
It should not be lost on us that the team is captained by a Black, Siya Kolisi, who in fact is the first Black captain to lead South Africa to a World Cup victory. Many South Africans hailed the victory as a rare moment to unify the country (10). This was not lost on Kolisi who had the following to say,
“We get through a lot of challenges as a country and we always find a way to get through this, especially when we get together and we start fighting for something. We had to fight every single game like it was a play off so, we gave it everything we could.”
The Springboks are one of the few symbols of hope for this country. Such hope is bolstered by Kolisi’s testimony from growing up in poverty in the Eastern Cape to becoming not only a Rugby World Cup winner by also the nation’s first Black captain. What an inspiring success story indeed.
The EFF hates the Springboks because of the racial and cultural unity they symbolize. Nothing could be worse for a Marxist-inspired political party longing for full-fledged revolution. They recognize that when the Springboks won the World Cup in Japan, they won it for all South Africans. But in unity there can be no motivation for revolution and the EFF realize this.
As I suggested earlier, the party’s responses are revealing concerning its ideology. It also informs South Africans who support the EFF what they are voting for. Voting for the EFF is to support the prospect of civil war and revolution based on sowing racial and cultural division that destroys all symbols of unity. If one desires proof, they need only look at the EFF’s treatment of the Springboks, as we have done here. Even Nelson Mandela, the nation’s ultimate symbol of unity, has been derided; as Ndlozi remarked: “What exactly do we gain by remembering Mandela?” Indeed, Ndlozi would no doubt insist, what do we gain by having the Springboks?
- Ndlozi, Mbuyiseni. 2016. What Frantz Fanon teaches us – EFF. Available.
- Bhengu, Cebelihle. 2019. ’Whites created this mess’ – Julius Malema on anger at foreign nationals. Available.
- Modise, Kgomotso. 2020. Malema: White people must apologise & pay money for genocide, murder & apartheid. Available.
- Stolley, Giordano. 2016. Malema not calling for the slaughter of whites, for now. Available.
- Bloomberg. 2019. EFF promises to nationalise all land, banks and mines. Available.
- Madisa, Kgothatso. 2020. Malema says visit to Senekal will be peaceful, but if it descends into chaos ‘so be it’. Available.
- Zeeman, Kyle. 2019. WATCH | ‘Bokke must fall’: 5 quotes from Mbuyiseni Ndlozi’s parliament address. Available.
- IOL. 2019. Mbuyiseni Ndlozi accused of ‘dividing the nation’ after Springboks tweet. Available.
- ENCA. 2019. Ndlozi defends controversial RWC comments, won’t ‘live a lie’. Available.
- Pedro, Michael. 2019. South Africans celebrate unity brought by Springboks’ RWC victory. Available.