South Africa


Malema’s four-province weekend sprint is also a social networks dream

Malema’s four-province weekend sprint is also a social networks dream

Economic Freedom Fighters leader Julius Malema blitzed through four provinces this weekend and charmed crowds by lashing out against corruption (with no apparent irony) and by preaching racial division and African unity.

This was a particularly good weekend for EFF leader Julius Malema. While ANC Secretary-General Ace Magashule was toyi-toying for his political life after weekend papers republished damning allegations about patronage networks in the Free State, and while President Cyril Ramaphosa’s son, Andile, was still bumbling along with his explanations about the Bosasa millions, Malema was clapping his hands like a rock star with supporters at his feet.

It was the same joyous dance at every venue, and in each venue, he appeared to speak mostly off the cuff. This helped him connect to the audience (he shunned bulky podiums), gave him the flexibility to communicate his message in a way the crowd wants to hear it, but it also bestowed on him an air of authenticity, of keeping it real.

He conveniently even timed a visit to Philippi, just outside the Mother City, to coincide with the Cape Town International Jazz Festival. Actually, given that the Western Cape is the EFF’s second-smallest province after KwaZulu-Natal, it’s surprising he showed up there at all (and drew a respectable enough crowd).

Malema seems to have chosen the four provinces for this weekend’s campaign spots for their potential, and it is possible that he had a helicopter to enable him to zip so effortlessly through the long distances in a matter of hours. He included neither the party’s biggest provinces, Limpopo and Gauteng, or its smallest province, KwaZulu-Natal, on this tour.

The EFF Commander-in-Chief started off his weekend tour in Mthatha in the Eastern Cape, the party’s third-smallest province (3.48% in 2014) and fifth-slowest in growth (it gained 1.81 percentage points or 21,182 actual votes in the 2016 municipal elections). Then he was off to the Western Cape, where the party had only 2.11% of the vote in 2014, and it showed the smallest increase in the 2016 local government elections when it managed to get 2.78% of the vote. (Granted, local government elections and general elections are a matter of apples and pears, but these are the only two indicators the EFF has to measure itself by so far.)

On Sunday, Malema started in Lethabong near Rustenburg in the North West province, the province with the third-biggest share of votes (13.21%) and the fourth in growth (it increased by 2.43 percentage points, but decreased by about 5,000 actual votes in this province). He concluded his tour in the Free State, the EFF’s fourth-biggest (9.92% in 2014) but third-slowest in growth (it increased by 1.77% in the 2016 elections).

As much as Malema was hoping to grow the party in each of these provinces, the biggest audience is probably on social media, where the rallies were livestreamed and where the party’s team posted pictures showing the crowds at their biggest and the old people Malema interacted with, at their most emotional. The neat, green-grassed stadiums where his election rallies are held nowadays, and which are pictured in photographs snapped with a skilled hand, also feel like a far cry from Malema’s early fighting days when any dusty open space would do.

In the Western Cape, Malema aims to make inroads by taking votes away from the DA and the ANC. “We are here to take over what belongs to us,” he said. “This government of the EFF belongs to the EFF, belongs to the people of the Western Cape. You are not foreigners in Cape Town, you are not foreigners in the Western Cape. This is your home, this is your land, you must take this land,” he urged. He also told supporters to go back repeatedly to the homes of ANC supporters in an effort to gain their support.

In the other three provinces, where the ANC is experiencing divisions and local weakness, Malema targeted individuals implicated in corruption such as the former premiers of North West and Free State — Supra Mahumapelo and Ace Magashule respectively — as well as President Cyril Ramaphosa and former president Jacob Zuma, who he said was in the “same WhatsApp group” for allegedly taking bribes. Ramaphosa’s son Andile last week admitted to News24 to having had business dealings with facilities management company Bosasa, which has been implicated by the Zondo Commission of Inquiry into State Capture.

Malema also said stealing money through corruption was a big crime. “You are a murderer, you are killing innocent souls. You who commit corruption, you are worse than those who do pickpocketing because they are just stealing money from an individual. You are stealing from a purse, from hundreds of people,” he told the Free State crowd. He also added that this was stealing from black people.

Some might say Malema speaks about corruption from personal experience. It is important to note, though, that he has successfully convinced himself (and a number of supporters) that the EFF has not unduly benefited via his deputy, Floyd Shivambu’s brother Brian, from the looting of VBS Bank which left thousands of poor, black people stranded. Whatever alleged dodgy contracts Malema’s Ratanang Trust got in Limpopo in his previous life in the ANC Youth League, these also don’t count towards his current leadership portfolio.

(Ah, the born-again politicians… — Ed)

There were also other gaping contradictions in his rhetoric, most notably in the Western Cape. In the years following Nelson Mandela’s death, and that of his former wife Winnie Madikizela-Mandela, Malema has been increasingly dismissive of Mandela’s legacy of non-racialism and reconciliation, but someone must have told him that the Capeys still love the former Robben Island prisoner.

He brought Mandela’s name into a rather inspiring exhortation for people to vote:

You can decide what you want to do with your future,” he said. “Mandela left you with a powerful weapon, and when you use that weapon there will be no blood on the floor, but there is a proper change that will be ushered by your cross. Your cross is your weapon. Use it to deal with corruption, use it to deal with poverty, use your cross to regain the dignity of African children.”

He said, though, such a vote should not go to the ANC:

The ANC of Mandela is finished. It is the ANC of (Jacob) Zuma, it is the ANC of Ramaphosa, the ANC that killed our people in Marikana.”

Malema also spoke about how black, white, coloured and Indian should stick together, but at the same time also resorted to generalisations and blanket assumptions about white people (also bizarrely saying all white people’s dogs have medical aid), and just before lumping new SARS boss, Edward Kieswetter, and Trevor Manuel, who in one of his former lives was finance minister, together and casting aspersions on them mainly because of their shared ethnicity.

At the same time, he urged unity between black Africans, coloureds and Indians. This after previously lashing out at Indian “cabals” in government.

We as victims of apartheid, Indians, coloureds and blacks, we must greet each other as equal, we must fight alongside each other for the protection from the white people.”

It’s not all solidarity. In that same breath he left the door open for divisions, and maybe even shot himself in the foot in this province with its large coloured voting population by implying black Africans are worse off.

Coloureds and Indians don’t have land, Africans are worse. We want this land to be in the hands of our people,” he said. DM


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