At the weekend funeral of ANC stalwart Winnie Madikizela-Mandela, Economic Freedom Fighters leader Julius Malema got cosy with some ANC leaders who always wanted Malema to return to the governing party’s fold. There were even remarks about a bromantic chemistry between him and President Cyril Ramaphosa, but does this constitute a sign, Mama Nomzamo?
Some might say EFF leader Julius Malema was tested when he was seated next to ANC Women’s League leader Bathabile Dlamini in the stands in the early part of the programme at Winnie Madikizela-Mandela’s funeral service in Orlando Stadium on Saturday.
It was clear there was no love lost between Malema and Dlamini, who is close to former president Jacob Zuma and who was demoted from social development to the much smaller women’s ministry by Ramaphosa earlier in 2018.
Dlamini doesn’t matter that much anyway, as her faction of the party is a little low on power right now.
Malema himself played nice, selectively, and at the start of his speech promised that his “Red Sea”, which occupied a substantial block in the stadium, would not boo President Cyril Ramaphosa, purely by virtue of his position.
“President Matamela, you are her (Madikizela-Mandela’s) president. Anyone showing you disrespect is showing Mama disrespect, because you are the president of her organisation. Even the ‘Red Sea’ is going to cheer in salutation,” he said, causing Ramaphosa to giggle, apparently flattered.
It wasn’t flattery as much as he was effectively telling Ramaphosa that he’d play nice only because Madikizela-Mandela would have wanted him to. He certainly didn’t extend the same courtesy to Zuma, as former president of Madikizela-Mandela’s political home, failing to recognise Zuma in his address at all.
That was more or less where Malema’s love for the ANC stopped, as he continued to tear into former ANC Women’s League members (including Defence Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula, who conducted the ceremony), ANC leaders as well as former United Democratic Front leaders, for treating Madikizela-Mandela badly in the past. He effectively accused them of doing too little, too late, and crying crocodile tears.
It was aimed at sowing suspicion and division in the ANC, and discrediting the party. This was Malema in electioneering mode, not the kind of nice you play if you want to be welcomed back into the fold.
Malema also brought up the sore point of the widows of the 34 Marikana miners who were shot by police in 2012, and in which Ramaphosa had an interest as non-executive director of Lonmin at the time.
Ramaphosa himself was much more gracious, telling Malema they could visit the widows together, as was Madikizela-Mandela’s 80th birthday wish, and preaching unity.
From the ANC side, there was much more toenadering, a hint of a rapprochement, and much, much more love.
ANC elections head and Malema’s former BFF, Fikile Mbalula, extended a hand by telling Malema to “come back home” as Madikizela-Mandela had wanted him to.
Mbalula also picked up on Malema’s rallying cry on land.
“Land expropriation without compensation, we are on it,” Mbalula sweet-talked Malema.
Perhaps Malema had a hand in facilitating the ANC leaders’ address at the funeral. If City Press is to be believed, Madikizela-Mandela’s family wasn’t keen on ANC speakers at the funeral at all. ANC chairperson Gwede Mantashe wasn’t on the original programme, and when he did speak, he undertook contritely to commit the ANC to restore Madikizela-Mandela’s Brandfort home. This was something ANC Secretary-General Ace Magashule should have done as Free State premier but failed to do, and Mantashe’s promise sounded as if it could have been engineered by Malema.
While Mbalula from the podium beckoned him to return, Malema was shown sitting right in between Gauteng Premier David Makhura and Mantashe and talking with them, looking relaxed, with Magashule behind him.
While Malema was friendly to the governing party leaders, and while the EFF has uniquely turned to the ANC in an effort to get rid of the Nelson Mandela Bay’s Democratic Alliance mayor Athol Trollip, there is no way the EFF would return to an ANC which still harbours someone like Zuma and his supporters.
A coalition is also unlikely. EFF spokesperson Mbuyiseni Ndlozi said on Sunday that the EFF and the ANC were not talking coalitions right now.
“The only thing that EFF’s attendance of Mama Winnie Mandela’s funeral shows is politics tolerance. It must be commended that both political formations can be in one stadium in their numbers and conduct a funeral peacefully to the end,” Ndlozi said in a statement.
Jan-Jan Joubert, political journalist and author of a soon-to-be-published book on elections and coalitions, Who Will Rule in 2019, said while anything was possible, “it’s early days yet”.
He said: “The EFF and the ANC will have to see what is in it for them. What do they agree on, and what do they differ on?”
Joubert, who did in-depth interviews with political leaders on coalitions, said being the third-biggest party in South Africa was a difficult position to be in; EFF leaders hold different opinions about a possible merger or a coalition with the ANC, or whether to work with the party at all. Ndlozi, for one, is known to be fervently opposed.
Malema himself last month tweeted “that thing is dead” after reports that Ramaphosa and his deputy, DD Mabuza, want him to return to the ANC.
What’s in it for the EFF anyway? Positions and money, possibly, but in terms of its biggest selling point, the policies the party has been pushing, not much. Leaders like Malema also risk looking old, losing credibility as well as their positions in the party’s regions and branches.
Despite Mbalula’s apparent promise that the ANC could help the EFF get its wishes on land reform – together they could probably get a two-thirds majority in the National Assembly – the two parties hold divergent views on how it should be accelerated. The EFF wants land to be held in the custody of the state, while the ANC wants redistribution without compensation only if feasible and if the current mechanisms have been exhausted.
The ANC has much more to gain, such as a plausible youth voice (Mbalula, nearing his half-century and greying, spoke “for the youth of the country” – an indictment on the current clowning in the youth league), street cred, energetic campaigners, more votes, and a weaker opposition.
Horse-trading about coalitions is likely to start in earnest once the voters cast the die in 2019. DM
Photo: Julius Malema (C), leader of the opposition party Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF), speaks to supporters outside Winnie Madikizela-Mandela’s home in Soweto as mourners gather, Johannesburg, South Africa 03 April 2018. EPA-EFE/STR