South Africa

EFF retires #PayBackTheMoney, switches to election mode

By Ranjeni Munusamy 18 September 2015

The campaign to get President Jacob Zuma to comply with the Public Protector’s remedial action on the Nkandla security upgrades has moved from Parliament to the Constitutional Court. Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) leader Julius Malema says with all political processes exhausted, the highest court in the land should decide the matter and the Office of the Public Protector has also asked to join their application. The EFF has decided to join the mass anti-corruption march and will also stage its own financial sector march in October. The party is back on the attack, with Zuma, the ANC Youth League and the Democratic Alliance all in the line of fire. By RANJENI MUNUSAMY.

For a long while, #PayBackTheMoney was the central campaign of the EFF, with its entire parliamentary strategy focused on confronting and shaming President Jacob Zuma about when he would reimburse the state for non-security upgrades at his Nkandla home. At a media briefing in Johannesburg on Thursday, EFF leader Julius Malema said his party had “exhausted all internal political and parliamentary processes” aimed at trying to get the president to pay back the money as directed by Public Protector Thuli Madonsela. The Constitutional Court has agreed to consider the EFF’s application on whether Zuma was obliged to implement the remedial action recommended in Madonsela’s Nkandla report.

“We believe that Mr. Zuma has used his political influence to bulldoze all legal process and used the Police Minister and Parliament to exonerate him from the fact that he unduly benefitted on the construction of his private residence in Nkandla. Mr. Zuma will now be granted an opportunity to explain under oath the reasons why he allowed for the misuse of public money in his private residence and why he is refusing to pay back the money,” Malema said.

He said the EFF was happy that they managed to entrench “pay back the money” in parliamentary proceedings as well as “every dinner table in the country”. It was now a clear slogan for anti-corruption and to hold the executive accountable, Malema said.

While the “pay back the money” protests and repeated questions to Zuma on Nkandla will no longer happen, the hostile atmosphere in Parliament is set to continue. The cooperative spirit that existed between opposition parties has dissipated and the EFF is particularly antagonistic towards the Democratic Alliance (DA). Malema lashed out at the DA for lodging a parallel application to the Constitutional Court on the Nkandla matter. The DA had initially approached the high court on the matter but has now announced they would also be going to the Constitutional Court.

“The EFF does not have a problem with political formations and interested parties that wish to join into our case, but condemn opportunistic attempts by some holier than thou political parties that want to institute a parallel process, whilst all issues relating to Nkandla can and should be presented in one case,” Malema said. He said Madonsela had written to the EFF asking to join their case and they welcomed her participation. The DA was however threatened that the EFF was “outshining” them and were thus lodging a separate application to the Constitutional Court, Malema said.

“Racists are a serious problem in this country. The DA can’t stomach the fact that they were beaten by black young boys… Black fellows taught them the law.”

Malema revealed that it was a calculated move to approach the Constitutional Court now. He said Zuma’s time within which he could have Madonsela’s report reviewed by the courts had lapsed. He said they had pushed through the parliamentary process until the review period expired and then brought the court application.

“It was a calculated move. It was not a coincidence. You keep him busy there so that he forgets the court review period,” Malema said. “You then go to court and say he must comply.”

The bad blood with the DA and other opposition parties also stems from the fact that they voted in favour of a new parliamentary rule that allows members of Parliament to be removed by protection services on instruction of presiding officers. Malema was removed from the House early this month in terms of the new rule when he refused to withdraw his statement that Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa was a “murderer”.

“The presiding officer even went to the extent of arbitrarily suspending me for five days without any due process having been followed. We have since approached the court to declare the suspensions illegal and to rescind the rule whose role is to intimidate members of Parliament,” Malema said.

“The EFF will fight against all unjust Parliamentary Rules that seek to suppress freedom of expression,” he said. “We will never allow the ruling party to militarise Parliament, and we will forever remind the Presiding Officers that we are not guests of Zuma and Baleka Mbete in Parliament, but elected representatives with maximum freedom of speech.”

When asked about the EFF’s recent practice of opposing all motions in Parliament, Malema said these would not stop as it was to hit back at all the parties that voted in favour of the rule allowing MPs to be removed from the House.

“When you protest, you use all means necessary to draw attention to your protest but also to ensure that you offend the enemy,” Malema said. All parties would be treated the same and their motions opposed until the rule was rescinded. Malema warned that South Africa was “in the early stages of a dictatorship” where freedom of expression was being impinged.

Malema also bashed Zuma for his recent statements on the cause of the European refugee crisis during a briefing with heads of missions and the media. Zuma was quoted as saying “the consistent and systematic bombardment of Libya by Nato forces undermined security in that country – that is why we have got this problem. The migrant crisis is the result of their interference – it is their responsibility, they caused it, and they must address it. That is the painful truth”.

Malema said this statement “represents the highest form of hypocrisy, dishonesty and utter disregard of the people of South Africa and the African continent”. He said Zuma had “voted with his friends in the West for the bombing of Libya and killing of Colonel [Muammar] Gaddafi” and therefore had his blood on his hands. “If there is anyone who is responsible for the murder of Gaddafi in the African continent, it is Mr Zuma,” Malema said.

The new leadership of the ANC Youth League (ANCYL) took a heavy beating from Malema, particularly over their accusation that the EFF had stolen their “economic freedom” campaign. He said it was in fact the new ANCYL leaders who were repeating campaigns that they had conceptualised while in the league. He said there was a “poverty of ideas” in the ANCYL now and the new leaders were told to mimic the EFF to render it irrelevant.

“There is no longer a youth league. That thing is a youth desk,” Malema said. “The ANCYL is completely useless. They have even taken the false teeth out of it.”

The EFF seems to be reclaiming the economic freedom campaign with a march to the Chamber of Mines, Reserve Bank and Johannesburg Stock Exchange on 27 October. Malema said this would be similar to the economic freedom march from Johannesburg to Pretoria that he led in 2011. “The purpose of the march is to demand these representatives of the financial sector and white monopoly capital to play a meaningful role in the lives of all South Africans.”

He said the EFF would also participate in the Unite Against Corruption march in Pretoria on 30 September. He said they had decided to join “Vavi’s march” as “anyone who fights corruption is our friend”. Former Cosatu general secretary Zwelinzima Vavi is one of the key figures behind the march.

Malema said there had however been no discussions on other areas of cooperation with the unions, including the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (Amcu). But he had encouraged Vavi, Amcu president Joseph Mathunjwa and metalworkers union general secretary Irvin Jim to work with progressive forces to form a new independent worker federation. Malema said the EFF would support such a federation but would have no expectations in return.

Malema announced that the EFF would contest all wards in all municipalities in next year’s local government elections. The EFF is to issue guidelines on candidates for election later this month. He warned off people wanting to join the EFF in order to become councillors and mayors, saying the party had no space for opportunists. The EFF would not field big personalities for mayoral candidates as the ANC had done with football boss Danny Jordaan. “We don’t invest in individuals, we invest in the brand,” Malema said.

The brand was already growing in institutions of higher learning through the EFF Student Command, Malema said.

Less than a year after its formation, the EFF won 1.1 million votes in the national elections, with representation in all nine provinces. Now it is ready to take its radical, in-your-face politics to local government level. If Thursday’s media briefing is anything to go by, the election trail is going to be aggressive and brutal.

One key event on the way to the election campaign will be a visit to the Constitutional Court on 9 February 2016 on the Nkandla matter – likely two days before the 2016 State of the Nation Address. Whatever happens, it will start off a crucial year in South African politics with a bang. DM

Photo: Leader of the opposition party Economic Freedom Fighters, Julius Malema (R) and deputy Floyd Shivambu (L) attend South African President Jacob Zuma’s answering of questions about his State Of The Nation Address (SONA) in parliament in Cape Town, South Africa, 19 February 2015. EPA/NIC BOTHMA

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