Speech by John Steenhuisen MP
Chief Whip of the Official Opposition
27 November 2018
“You don’t need a degree to see the EFF for what it is”
To those learned individuals on my left, if you’re expecting an academic lecture from this podium today, sorry to disappoint you. This is Parliament, not a university convocation.
The Constitution sets out very clearly what the qualifications are to sit in this House. That Constitution specifically ensured that no matter whether you are a mineworker or a brain surgeon, you could seek election to represent your community.
How ironic it is to see the EFF – the so-called vanguard of the working class – argue for some form of qualified franchise where only those with university qualifications can get elected and serve in this Parliament.
The self-proclaimed ayatollahs of academia, this little clique in the EFF, seeks to persecute those who don’t conform to their elitist world-view.
You see, this is the ultimate hypocrisy that is the EFF: they like to play dress-up as miners and domestic workers, but they don’t think that real miners and domestic workers are good enough to be Members of Parliament.
Like the old English upper classes that kept the working class from the halls of Parliament with their Oxford degrees and Cambridge qualifications, the EFF want to lock out ordinary South Africans from their country’s decision-making processes.
Let me be clear: I don’t have a university degree, I have never pretended to. I enrolled for a BA in politics and law at Unisa in 1994, however – like many South Africans – I never finished it due to financial and work pressures.
I am not ashamed of this. I knew from an early age that I wanted to be a public representative and that I wanted to work in politics to change people’s lives for the better.
I was elected as a Councillor at the age of 22. For the last 20 years, wherever I have served – whether on the eThekwini council, the KZN legislature, or here in this Parliament – I have represented the citizens of this country honestly and diligently, and with the very best efforts of my brain, my heart and my soul.
I have never once used my position to line my own pockets.
I have never once abused provincial tender processes to make myself and my family rich, as Julius Malema did in Limpopo.
I have never stolen the savings of the poor and vulnerable to buy fancy houses and swimming pools, as Floyd Shivambu did with the VBS Bank.
And I have never assaulted journalists, or threatened fellow Members of this House, like the EFF does on a regular basis.
It amazes me that this party of academic elitists, who parade on Instagram in their academic gowns, is the one party that consistently resorts to thuggery and chaos in this House.
The EFF is the only party which deploys violent disruption to displace debate, where the middle finger is used to substitute words, and where personal denigration and false invective is spewed forth in place of argument.
If that is what a university education gets you, you can keep it. And if you think that is “higher logic”, then I’m afraid you’re deluded.
Frankly, the taxpayers of South Africa should demand a refund for the public money this little elite have used to fund their education. Because it is fruitless and wasteful expenditure if I ever saw it!
But let’s also call out the last 48 hours for what they are. A smokescreen. Whether it’s this ridiculous attack on me, or the disgustingly personal denigration of Minister Gordhan and his family, or the vile abuse the EFF have meted out to the journalists who have exposed them. It is a smokescreen.
A smokescreen to mask the corruption of their party and the network of patronage and rent- seeking that resulted in the looting of VBS bank. The EFF know that this is fatal to their brand, because they have stolen from the very people they claim to represent. They are desperate to refocus the public’s attention on something else and will use any means to do so.
Like fascist organizations the world over, they know that the best form of defense is attack. They hope that, by unleashing their Fighters, they will escape scrutiny of their party’s dodgy dealings, their hidden hypocrisy and their leaders’ lavish lifestyles.
We must not allow them to wriggle off this hook! If we do, we will be failing our democracy, and we will be failing those who have suffered at the hands of EFF.
We are not afraid of this little band of wannabe revolutionaries with their academic posturing, who think that quoting Karl Marx, Frantz Fanon and Chairman Mao makes them friends of the working class.
You don’t need a degree to see the EFF for what it is: an elitist clique that steals from the poor and the downtrodden. And we will continue to call them out on their hypocrisy, without fear or favour.
I thank you.