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ANALYSIS: The outlier economics of the Freedom Front Plus

May 13 2019 19:30
Ferial Haffajee, Fin24

The outlier of the elections is the Freedom Front Plus which more than doubled its support in last week’s election. 

With its slogan “Slaan Terug” (Hit back or Fight Back), the party drew support from 400 000 largely white voters, up from 165 000 in 2014.  With 10 members in parliament and directed politics, what will this party bring to the economic agenda?

Unlike complex, broad-church parties like the ANC and the DA where policy positions are often the result of compromises both within and outside their parties, more radical stand-alone parties can impact policy and influence debate by being able to take more lean and targeted positions. 

Lay of the Land

In this, lies both their power and their peril. With a more muscular EFF in parliament (its contingent up by 19 MPs), the land is likely to remain a heated and divisive area of policy-making and of policy contestation as the FF-Plus is an aggressive opponent of land expropriation without compensation and of a constitutional amendment to affect this. 

The FF-Plus has already threatened to take any such law to international tribunals which will make more global South Africa’s land policies. President Cyril Ramaphosa has sought to create consensus between black and white people on an accelerated land reform agenda, which includes legislated expropriation, but both the FF-Plus and the EFF are outside the tent.  

Loud voices win in policy debates in South Africa, so both the radical parties are likely to take up the temperature on land. The FF-Plus is also likely to focus on how taxes are spent in politics which align with the Opposition Undoing Tax Abuse (OUTA), a popular civil society organisation mobilised to protect the public rand. 

This campaign against tax abuse is not regarded as a whites-only campaign, so the FF-Plus can build coalitions of support on this policy plank. The party’s manifesto shows that it could, for example, join sections of the ANC which want e-tolls abandoned because these proved politically unpalatable for the governing party in Gauteng. 

'Government must earn tax'

Its election manifesto says, “The FF-Plus is of the view that the e-toll system was characterised by poor agreements, which lead to unnecessarily large payments being made to foreign service providers. Although the improved roads promote the economy on the one hand, the e-toll system suppresses it again on the other hand. The FF Plus maintains that this system must be abolished.”

On tax, it says that, “Government must earn tax, not collect it,” an idea that is quite foreign to the governing ANC. 

The third significant area where the FF-Plus is likely to use its new muscle to push is against black economic empowerment.  In this, it could join with the DA which has taken a beating in the election, primarily because it could not find a liberal alternative to the nationalist redress BEE policies of the government. 

Racial Redress

The party’s conservative wing is likely to push it closer to the FF-Plus which is totally against racial redress. Its manifesto point reads, “Race-based Affirmative Action and unfair Black Economic Empowerment must be terminated. These policies have failed all South Africans and the youth in particular. Only a small elite benefits while poverty and unemployment are rife.”  

The EFF, on the other hand, has tabled a manifesto which pivots on the belief that most wealth lies in white people’s hands and that accelerated black empowerment across all levels of the economy is necessary. These two opposing positions are likely to take the political temperature up on racial redress. 

Government’s plans to trim the size of the 1.3-million-strong civil service are to offer packages at the top and oldest ends of that service, impacting white civil servants.  This is also likely to get a rise out of the FF-Plus. 

“The dismissal of older, experienced employees must be avoided,” says its manifesto. While the FF-Plus started life to motivate for a volkstaat – autonomous governing region for Afrikaners - it has moderated that position to support more power for local government and to make a national autonomous community. 

“In regard to self-determination, the FF Plus endeavours to establish autonomy for a cultural community across the entire country concerning matters like education, elderly care, sport, heritage conservation and the like. Community councils, for example an Afrikaner Council, must be established for communities that are spread out across the country.” 

This is likely to express itself at parliament and other locations of influence as support for autonomous school-governing bodies and segregated facilities under the guise of language or cultural protections.  

Find everything you need to know about the 2019 National and Provincial Government Elections at our News24 Elections site, including the latest news and detailed, interactive maps for how South Africa has voted over the past 3 elections. Make sure your News24 app is updated to access all our elections coverage in one place. 

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