This article appeared in the 14 May edition of Legalbrief Today, under Policy Watch

The EFF’s performance in South Africa’s recent general elections may not have been as spectacular as its leaders predicted, but 19 more seats in the National Assembly represents a 76% increase in the party’s ability to influence the parliamentary process. Apart from the role its ‘signature proposals’ may well have played in prompting an ANC policy shift in support of expropriation without compensation as an instrument for accelerating land reform (Daily Maverick), since 2014 – with just 25 seats – the EFF has also made a significant impact on debates in the National Assembly’s Standing Committee on Finance.

It all began with EFF deputy president Floyd Shivambu presenting his party’s position on transfer pricing as far back as May 2015, triggering a three-year process later involving the committees on trade and industry, mineral resources and police – and eventually focusing on the measures required to curb base erosion and profit shifting (Parliamentary Monitoring Group). Last year, by tabling an albeit superficial Banks Amendment Bill, Shivambu went on either
to spark or rekindle a debate on the merits of enabling state-owned entities to register as banks. As a result, although his piece of legislation was rejected, a Financial Matters Amendment Bill, among other things introducing the necessary provisions, is now awaiting presidential assent.

A South African Reserve Bank (SARB) Amendment Bill introduced in the National Assembly last August by EFF commander-in-chief Julius Malema has yet to be considered. One of the proposed new statutes on which members of the incoming Standing Committee on Finance will cut their teeth, it, too, lacks substance from a technical drafting perspective. However, President Cyril Ramaphosa has already made it very clear that the ANC’s 2017 elective conference resolution to nationalise the SARB will be implemented (Fin24) – and, once again, the EFF has kick-started the process.

Hopefully, the new, numerically stronger cohort of red overall wearers in Parliament will desist from the kinds of activities for which the EFF became notorious during former President Jacob Zuma’s second term in office. As in the case with every other political party preparing to occupy seats in SA’s sixth democratic Parliament, the names of EFF representatives will feature in lists expected to be released by Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng this week (SABC News). But it is the calibre of incoming MPs that counts, regardless of their ideological persuasion. Will they familiarise themselves with the issues? Will they read and scrutinise every document sent their way? Will they faithfully attend every meeting of the committees to which they are deployed? Will they enrich the quality of debate and new legislation? Will they deliver what is really in the country’s best interests?