“What impact has the Economic Freedom Fighters had on South African politics?”

The SABC tweeted this question yesterday and asked followers to vote for one of these four options: 1. Substance and debate; 2. Good entertainment; 3. Just hot air nothing else; 4. Viable alternative voice.

I was surprised to see the results. Especially since the poll was requested by the SABC. The consensus: Substance and debate. 48% of participants agreed the party made a substantial contribution to the discourse of the country. The runner up? “Viable alternative voice”. An opinion that mirrors that first and aligns itself with a positive contribution to the political climate of the country.

The EFF and the national broadcasting network don’t exactly have a romantic relationship history. Floyd Shivambu once reminded the SABC board that: This is not Generations. And then, of course, there were those claims during the previous election where the broadcaster was accused of banning EFF advertisements – apparently refusing to air them because of their alignment with the ANC.

Twitter users further contributed to the discussion by commending the EFF for their ability to be a voice for the voiceless and being fearless. And then there was a lot of agreement about the fact that the EFF is solely responsible for lowering the numbers of the slumbering members of Parliament.

Yes, we have to acknowledge that the EFF are also responsible for some unacceptable forms of disruption in Parliament as well. Like that time a woman got kicked in the head while security was trying to forcibly remove them.

But on the whole, I have to agree with the results of the poll and the rest of the praise.

When the EFF started out we laughed. Julius Malema was an easy target. He was the punchline of many jokes. The LOLs started when he was part of the Youth League and they followed him into the EFF. His red beret. Those blue collar red overalls. The showmanship. His quick mouth. His temper. And his opinions which lacked nuance. No hits were missed. Malema and his party were not safe from the sceptical ire of the South African public. But now, the joke’s on us.

The man has swiftly moved from “major pain in the ass” to “massive influencer, game-changer and inspiration”. He has stopped telling and started showing and for me, the most commendable of his actions is that he has subtly refused to adopt the Diana Ross disposition of so many other party leaders. The EFF is about the Supremes, and not one individual. It’s about the Ndlozis. The Shivambus. And most of all, it is about the people who show up in their thousands to support them and leave with the sincere belief that they have been seen and heard. And in these times of pop-culture politics, this is something that cannot be overlooked.

They might be a small population in Parliament but the part they play has been hearty. They have managed to both outperform the opposition and unite the opposition.

The fighters have detached the youth from the sidelines of political events, transforming them from wallflowers at the dance to the main act at the centre of the circle. Even if you look quickly, you cannot miss it.

They have taken politics out of the back pockets of the old guard, whose vision has been blurred by corruption and who are hanging on for dear life, and put in the hands of the people. And they did it without kissing babies and handing out free T-shirts. Red is the colour of devotion. Blue and yellow? Those hues have become symbolic of purchased faith. And we cannot deny the fact that they have a lot to celebrate.

Haji Mohamed Dawjee is a commentator on gender equality, sexuality, culture, race relations and feminism as well as ethics in the South African media environment.