HYPOCRISY, SQUARED

Revolutionary trash sometimes requires trash journalism, literally

By Marianne Thamm 3 July 2019
Caption
Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) leader Julius Malema arrives to address the EFF supporters during the final EFF rally prior to the elections held in Soweto Township, Johannesburg, South Africa, 05 May 2019. EPA-EFE/KIM LUDBROOK

We had to stoop low to get this story, in which we dig up dirt on the Economic Freedom Fighters.

An EFF entourage that travelled to Cape Town for SONA and the subsequent parliamentary debates booked into a four-bedroom luxury Camps Bay villa priced at between R7,100 and R25,000 a night. When the Fighters checked out at 10am on Thursday 27 June 2019 they had run up a bill of about R60,000 for eight nights, most of which will be pocketed by the foreign owner. They also left their trash out in the street. So we went through it.

About 15 years ago, journalists at the alternative website Willamette Week decided to check out the garbage of then Portland mayor Vera Katz, police chief Mark Kroeker and district attorney Mike Schrunk. It was their right… what is put out in the public realm is no longer private. The story went viral in January 2018 after it had been reposted.

Sure, many commentators pointed out, the article is a decade and a half old. But, others noted, it touches on something that the nation is desperately grasping for at the moment: ingenuity when it comes to holding people in power accountable,” said Willamette web editor Elise Herron.

***

The booking for the fighters at the Camps Bay villa with its panoramic sea views had been made for 2pm on June 19, a day before President Cyril Ramaphosa’s State of the Nation Address. The reservation was made by Larry Mavunda, CIC Julius Malema’s bodyguard. Mavunda seldom leaves the CIC’s side.

And while the EFF manifesto may call for “The Illegalisation of Alcohol Advertisement Bill, which will end the celebration and promotion of alcohol consumption in South Africa” the fighters spent at least R25,000, at a conservative estimate, much of it on the French champagne brands Veuve Clicquot, Veuve Clicquot Rich and Moët et Chandon.

(A bottle of Veuve Clicquot sells for about R600 and the silver Veuve Clicquot Rich goes for R900. Moët Nectar Imperial will set you back around R700.)

Among the 37 bottles retrieved from seven out of at least 14 bags of trash the fighters left behind and that had been put out in the street, were empty bottles of Meerlust Rubicon (R425 a bottle), Glenfiddich whisky (special edition at R1,500 a bottle) and Tanqueray gin which retails at around R289 a bottle.

Long, long ago when this hack first trained as a journalist, one of the rules in Journalism 101 was “always go through the trash”, especially if you are conducting an investigation.

The rule for Politics 101, of course, is never put out the trash unless you have scoured it of all possibly incriminating evidence.

And so it came to pass that I found myself on the morning of Friday 29 June elbow-deep in uneaten food, used condoms, boxes of discarded unused condoms, discarded deposit slips with bank account numbers, slips of paper from purchases from H&M (yes, the store the fighters trashed), Zara as well as slips and packaging from other fast-food restaurants. The city council was due to collect the bags that morning.

After picking through it and laying it out we found more in the trash. Enough to directly place at least one EFF leader at the house.

So, why go through the Fighters’ trash? Surely this is stooping to tabloid journalism of the lowest degree?

These are indeed low times, compatriots… it is a post-ideological age, while politicians would have us believe in their particular ideologies.

You are policing black wealth, I hear some accuse.

ALL wealth should be policed in these sad, bad times where the financial sector, lawyers and consultants have, globally, aided and abetted the theft of taxpayers’ money by a professional and elite class of economic looters and predators.

The EFF are public servants. Those who voted for the party did so based on the principles they claim to stand for and the promises made in exchange for trust and an X on the ballot paper.

So, sometimes, going through Revolutionary Trash is about policing hypocrisy.

Because if these Economic Freedom Fighters want to create special economic zones in South Africa to stimulate local economies, then there are any number of “township” bed and breakfasts that could have done with the recirculation of the R60,000 they spent on their own luxury accommodation. Restaurants too in Langa and Khayelitsha could have benefited from the clearly healthy appetites and thirst of the young revolutionaries.

If the EFF wants to ban foreign ownership they should not support a foreign-owned business in South Africa. If they did not know the villa was foreign-owned they could have asked. Camps Bay is crawling with wealthy Europeans cashing in on our weak rand.

If the EFF wants to limit alcohol consumption they should set the example. This is not a way to do it.

If you don’t mind, and support capitalism and foreign ownership, if you like to overindulge, there is no law stopping you. If you like to shop at H&M, go ahead, this is a free country. Many died for you to be able to shop, eat and drink. There is no crime in that.

But, if you would like to project yourselves as revolutionaries, as guardians of the poor and the marginalised, then you should also walk the talk.

To get to the bottom of what came out in the trash I wrote to EFF spokesperson Dr Mbuyiseni Ndlozi.

Three SAA ticket stubs in his name were found among the casually discarded slips. As if someone had emptied out their wallet or suitcase.

Daily Maverick confirmed that Ndlozi had indeed been on the flights. The most recent was SAA flight 347 from Johannesburg to Cape Town on 19 April 2019, departing at 3.10pm. Ndlozi, according to the discarded business class ticket stub, was the 77th passenger to check-in at ORT. The stub also listed his Voyager number.

On Monday 1 July, after verifying the booking by Mavunda (as well as the cellphone number he gave when making the booking) and Ndlozi’s travel movements, Daily Maverick wrote to Ndlozi. (At this point we did not reveal what we had found in the trash or send any photographs in our possession.)

Dear Dr Ndlozi

We have met once before at the Daily Maverick Gathering in Johannesburg but you might not remember.

I have watched the growth of the EFF with interest over the years. Economic redress and justice is not negotiable. It requires political commitment, boldness and for leaders who are calling for this to act ethically in relation to those who have put their trust in your party.

You need to walk the talk.

The notion of special economic zones is one that is workable, I have seen its tremendous success in Portugal. There the socialist government has escaped the capitalist trap by creating exactly these special zones. My late mother’s village in Aljustrel is one such example.

The reason for my communication with you specifically is to ask what the reason or motivation was for EFF leadership to rent a four-bedroomed mansion, [name has been removed], in Camps Bay for the duration of your stay during SONA and the subsequent debates in Cape Town?

The house, which is going to set your party back R60,000, belongs to a German citizen. I mention this particularly with regard to the EFF’s manifesto and the intention to abolish foreign land ownership. So in essence R60,000 will disappear into the pockets of a foreigner. The booking was made by Mr Larry Mavunda.

Then there is the not so small matter of the R40,000 damage to the property after your departure at 10am on Thursday morning.

Would the EFF not have set a better example by having circulated that money among the economically devastated communities in Cape Town who are struggling to get tourists and South Africans to spend money in townships? I have witnessed many such endeavours, the making of furniture, steel doors, dog kennels by individual South Africans in townships who are trying to make a living. There are countless guest houses and B&Bs that mostly foreign visitors utilise in Cape Town. The EFF leadership showing the way in this regard would send a very powerful message.

Then in relation to the EFF’s legitimate plan to implement “The Illegalisation of Alcohol Advertisement Bill, which will end the celebration and promotion of alcohol consumption in South Africa” how do you explain the vast quantities of alcohol, much of it French, consumed during your stay?

Now you might view my questions as an attempt to police black wealth.

My intention is to police ALL wealth, considering the brand of predatory capitalism that has plunged working-class and poor people across the globe into absolute penury. This has been aided and abetted by the financial sector, consultants and lawyers.

You are an elected official and are entitled to spend your money whichever way you please. But if this is not out of your own pocket then you do have a case to answer.

What I am doing at present is policing hypocrisy.

If you enjoy the fruits of capitalism including alcohol which is a weapon of the state in my opinion…then say so, be bold, be truthful, do it in the open.

You are entitled to spend your money whichever way you please. But bear in mind the constituency that has trusted you with its vote.

I would like also your comment in relation to purchases made at H&M at the Waterfront as well as your views on the young women who were seen leaving the house.

Considering the high moral ethics the EFF claims to aspire to I do believe that you should comment on the above. I look forward to your reply. You have 12 hours.

Regards

Marianne Thamm

Ndlozi replied via WhatsApp

Hi Marrianne (sic),

We are all accommodated by parliament in Cape Town. Some of our new MP, many of which are young men and women, were accommodated in flats and hotels. And therefore there would not be any need to “rent” private accommodation for our MPs. In addition, many of our invited guests were in private accommodation as it would be expected.

Am unable to confirm for the one you are talking about. I can’t account for this.

I must caution you that many of our MPs, leaders and members are young, black Women in particular. The insinuation in your question that I must particularly explain the presence of young black Women leaving private accommodation comes close to misogyny. Because these young women may very well be the leadership of the EFF, unless by “EFF leadership” you mean exclusively men. It may very well be that they are the ones who were accommodated there…

I really can’t help you with tabloid inspired inquiry masquerading as a policy and ideological concern.

Our reference to the young women seen leaving the house is in relation to those women who were witnessed waiting in the road for a lift after the EFF entourage had checked out. Neighbours can be nosy in the suburbs.

Daily Maverick then sent photographs of items recovered from the EFF trash and which placed Ndlozi at the luxury villa. Apart from the air ticket stubs, there were parliamentary documents. We also forwarded photographs of the empty alcohol bottles retrieved from the seven of around 14 bags outside the villa.

We challenged Ndlozi to list the hotels and guest houses that had been utilised by the EFF entourage and asked how it was possible that items with his name found their way to the trash outside the Camps Bay mansion. We also offered, should Ndlozi not have stayed there, to request CCTV footage of how at least 14 bags of Revolutionary Trash found its way to the luxury home.

Ndlozi replied

This is laughable and typical trash journalism. You are even trying to threaten and intimidate me with all that DNA and Fingerprints. Well, am not scared of you and the rouge unit!

I have given you my response, so go on and publish whatever satisfies your rouge investigative interests.

By “rouge” we assume Ndlozi meant “rogue”.

We then wished Ndlozi a peaceful night and offered the opportunity for fingerprints to be lifted from the bottles should he suspect we had an ulterior motive. We have not heard back since.

EFF leader, Julius Malema, responded to Daily Maverick’s query with “I don’t comment on rubbish”.

I have waited almost 30 years to go through someone’s trash. On Friday I got my chance finally to do some Trash Journalism and in the process busted the Trash Champagne Revolutionaries. You make up your own mind. DM

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