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Richard Poplak Weighs in on the ANC/EFF Red Beret Clash

Ja No ManThe Sheik's BatmobileIn his latest column for Daily Maverick, Richard Poplak turns to German philosopher Walter Benjamin to consider the sartorial and political implications of the EFF’s “massively successful campaign tool”, the Red Beret, following its ANC debut. Poplak is the author of Ja No Man and, most recently, The Sheik’s Batmobile.

A tale of two French hats.

The first is a red beret that debuted last year as the primary piece of ordnance in the fledgling Economic Freedom Fighters’ (EFF) prêt-à-porter arsenal. Perched on the head of the party’s leader, one-time ANC Youth League MC Julius Sello Malema, it became the must-have fashion item of 2013, a statement reminding the economically enfranchised that nationalisation of the mines—to say nothing of banks, Tasha’s franchises and BMW dealerships—was only a few pieces of branded apparel away. The beret linked the EFF to the sort of revolutionaries university kids post up in their dorm rooms before heading out for a night of shotgunning beers and falling accidentally pregnant: Che Guevara; the Black Panthers; the Provisional Irish Republican Army; the ETA—those bomb happy Basque Country independence fighters who wore their berets over hoods, just to keep shit fresh.

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