ANALYSIS

Stuck between irrelevance and a hard place, Malema screams conspiracy, calls for violence… again

By Stephen Grootes 20 June 2021

Illustrative image | Sources: Economic Freedom Fighters leader Julius Malema. (Photo: Gallo Images / Fani Mahuntsi / Sharon Seretlo / OJ Koloti) | Adobe Stock

The EFF leader is politicising the most important issue of our time: The Covid-19 vaccination drive. There is zero evidence he is doing this for the good of South Africa’s people and that he cares in any way for anyone who is not his supporter or follower. He has provided no evidence for any of his claims.

Stephen Grootes

The Economic Freedom Fighters says it is planning a protest march later this week to demand that the South African Health Products Regulatory Authority (Sahpra) allow the use of the Sputnik-V and Sinopharm vaccines. It appears to mark the first attempt in South Africa to politicise the use of vaccines, at a time when millions of people are desperate for an injection to protect themselves and their families from the virus.

But EFF leader Julius Malema has also made many more baseless claims and in some cases his own positions are contradictory. He appears to be growing more desperate before a local election which could have devastating results for him and trying to gain traction, any traction.

On Wednesday Malema held a mass rally outside Uitsig High School in Centurion in what appeared to be a clear contravention of the Covid-19 regulations announced by President Cyril Ramaphosa the night before. While observers can argue about the number of people there, it is certain that the number was above the limit of 100 people allowed at an outdoor gathering.

During his speech, Malema said that people should no longer obey lockdown regulations. He was quoted by News 24 as saying, “From today, we don’t listen to what Ramaphosa says about the coronavirus. We don’t comply with nonsense he says about the coronavirus until he gives us vaccines and vaccinates our people because he has no intention of vaccinating our people.”

He went on to say, “The Russians have offered vaccines but they refused it. We want our country back. Let us go and reclaim our country from Ramaphosa. If it means death, so be it. If it means prison, we will wait with honour because prison for revolutionaries is an honour. Only cowards will be scared of prison.”

Malema appears to be telling people they must put themselves at risk of the virus as a political action. But he then claims that this is to get the one thing that would protect them, vaccines.

It is not easy to understand the logic of this statement.

It was not the only fact-free or illogical statement on Wednesday.

While demanding that people break the lockdown regulations designed to save them from Covid-19, he demanded that schools be closed to protect children from the virus.

As quoted by EWN, he said, “Can you imagine children dying in their numbers” from the virus, and insisted that education institutions be shut.

This contradicts all the scientific evidence on children and Covid-19. While there are increasing numbers of children who have contracted the virus, the medical evidence shows that they do not develop severe symptoms or die from it.

The country which has had perhaps the worst pandemic, and the highest percentage of deaths, is the United States. The American Academy of Pediatrics says that children comprise “0%-0.23% of all Covid-19 deaths, and eight states reported zero child deaths”.

In the UK the figure, as quoted by The Lancet, stands at 0.09% for children under nine and 0.29% for children between 10 and 19.

In South Africa, the Paediatric Society has said consistently that children are safer in schools than outside them and are not at risk from the virus.

Then, on Friday last week, the EFF released a statement accusing Sahpra of being biased against vaccines from Russia and China. It is demanding that these vaccines be approved for use immediately.

In the statement, the party claims that Sahpra chair Professor Helen Rees is conflicted on this issue. They say that, “We have it on solid authority that Helen Rees is married to a Fazel Randera, who is in turn a shareholder in Aspen. Aspen is the local partner of J&J [Johnson & Johnson] and stands to privately benefit if Sputnik-V and Sinovac are not authorised in South Africa.”

It is true Rees is married to Randera. Randera is a former inspector-general of our intelligence services, a former commissioner of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, and an obstetrician. He met Rees while he was an anti-apartheid activist in the UK.

Rees moved to Zimbabwe with Randera and then to South Africa to work in hospitals here at a time when their mixed-race marriage would have been rare.

Randera told Daily Maverick on Saturday that, “There is no conflict of interest from my side, I have no shareholding in Aspen; if there was a shareholding it goes back to almost eight or nine years ago when the shares were sold off.”

The EFF has provided no evidence of its claim of a conflict or of a current shareholding in Aspen. But the shouts were loud, nevertheless.

Many times in the past the party has stated claims as facts, only for them to turn out to be the opposite.

In 2018, the party claimed that Public Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan had opened a bank account in Canada and claimed he was guilty of racketeering. The claim was simply not true and again no evidence was brought to prove it.

Also, any decision about the use of vaccines would actually be out of Rees’s hands. Sahpra uses a system of expert committees, doctors and scientists who assess the science. It is, in the end, a scientific process, where evidence is tested. Facts matter and it is on them that these decisions are based. It would be very hard for any person or even group of people to direct decisions individually.

… Malema may be trying to change the narrative, and is finding it difficult to find an issue that will win him votes in October.

At the same time, Sahpra has said it does not yet have all the data on which to assess the Russian and Chinese vaccines, despite asking for it. This means the ball is actually in the court of those applying for the registration of the vaccines, not Sahpra.

This then leads to the question: what is to be gained from politicising the vaccine programme, and for attempting to turn it into a debate about why Sahpra is not allowing these vaccines?

It appears that the answer is simple: Malema has recently battled to gain public attention.

While he appeared to be gaining plenty of traction into the 2019 elections, he won only 10.8% of the vote.

The party is now going into local elections. Traditionally these have been disappointing for the EFF because as a smaller party, it finds it difficult to campaign across the entire country. It has won only 12 local wards across South Africa while it has gathered support on the proportional representation system in councils.

At the same time, it is growing harder for the party to counter claims that its top leaders are corrupt.

The fact that the brother of Floyd Shivambu, Brian Shivambu, said in a legal document that he had received R4.55-million from VBS for no reason has, for many, consolidated perceptions that the party benefited corruptly from that banking scandal.

Malema’s own relationship with the cigarette smuggler Adriano Mazzotti (who paid the EFF’s election deposit in 2014) should also be a factor for some voters.

The EFF has also been demanding that the local elections be postponed, claiming that it is not safe for them to go ahead — while saying people must put themselves at risk by breaking lockdown regulations, mind you.

All of this suggests that Malema may be trying to change the narrative, that he is finding it difficult to find an issue that will win him votes in October, and that he is worried that he will have a disappointing result in those polls.

This then leads to the question, why are Malema and the EFF lying, and making such transparently contradictory statements?

It may simply be that the truth does not suit them, that the truth is against them and thus they have no other option. There are huge similarities to former US President Donald Trump here: when the facts did not suit him, he simply made them up to gain some offensive advantage in what they perceive as a war for voters. This may well be happening here.

But this does not mean that voters will buy it. While they did but it in the US from Trump and company, Malema has made untrue claims here before and has not been rewarded.

Of course, the lockdown regulations and the pandemic as a whole have made it difficult for anyone to conduct polling, which means it is hard to predict the results of these local elections. It could be that the EFF is about to grow its support. But for the moment this appears unlikely.

In the meantime, Malema is now politicising the most important issue of our time: the Covid-19 vaccination drive. There is zero evidence he is doing this for the good of our people and that he cares in any way for anyone who is not his supporter or follower. He has provided no evidence for any of his tortured claims. 

Malema is doing this only for his own, narrowly personal, toxic political agenda. DM

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All Comments 51

  • The tragedy of South African politics is that Juju’s followers will simply take his word as gospel and “yea say” everything without any of the critical analysis of this article.

    • Irrelevant people following an irrelevant leader. But so are the dynamics of politics, that other news now becomes so relevant that his words have became pure gasps of survival. Soon, his supporters will simply abandon him, as will the media. He simply is not newsworthy anymore

  • Gosh…how much longer will this racist be allowed to spread his vitriol? Is he being allowed to survive by the ANC as a foil to their own shortcomings? In my opinion ( and I assume I’m still entitled to one in a democracy) the longer this untrustworthy idiot is allowed to continue as the leader of a political party, the more ridiculous and unstable South Africa appears in the eyes of the world. As I said….in my opinion.

    • Jane, your opinion has more impact than Malema’s army have with all there laughable actions. He, they, have simply became a bad joke.

    • Julius is part of the problem rather than part of the solution. EFF joins the ANC as discredited parties, unskilled, unqualified and bankrupt, not fit to manage even a spaza shop.

  • Malema’s arrogance has not boundaries, but truth be told, so ridiculous has he became that even his own followers are now questioning his actions. Despite the ANC’s woes, I predict that the EFF will loose a large percentage of its support base come the Municipal Elections in October.

  • Good article, spot on, thank you. Malema is not constructive he is destructive and is his own worst enemy, what he doesn’t get people tire of constant aggression and negativity. He’s loosing traction and being exposed for what he is.

  • Surely he’s in violation of the Disaster Management Act?
    Surely there’s enough “evidence” on any number of other transgressions for the State to act against him??
    So what’s holding matters up and why is he still allowed to behave with impunity???

    • Simple Peter – the anc is protecting this idiot to further their own agenda to rule the country until there is nothing left (then blame aparthate and ask ‘the West and WMC’ to bail them out). If any other ‘normal’ citizen of SA even attempts to say the things that malema utters on a daily basis, you will be charged and convicted within a couple of days.

    • Currently because the ANC, despite assurances to the contrary by Ramaphosa, desires to nationalise/custodianise all privately-owned land into the hands of the governing cadreship. To achieve that, they need to change the Constitution. And to get past that hurdle, they need the EFF votes in Parliament.

    • He doesn’t mind as he’s made loads of money out of his foolishness. That will help him buy airtime while serving his sentence for the VBS rape.

    • Read your comment whilst listening to Malema at his last press conference on YouTube, and out of the blue, my African Grey Parrot shouted: “poepol”. Never even taught her that word. So, I agree, looking forward to watching the chaos which might, or might not, occur today. Aywe. let us enjoy the rally to break the lockdown boredom.

  • We should by all means assist him to achieve the highest order of irrelevance. Continue to print facts and inform as many people as you can reach. Deny him airtime, ignore his public statements, never quote him again but let Zapiro loose to exploit the silliness and lies that he spouts. Long nose and fiery pants come to mind . .

  • And by writing this opinion piece you have given malema some of the published space he so desperately wants? Why can the media and press not learn that this imbecile should just be left out in the open to dry and die?

  • Malema is a sad case. A few years ago I thought that he could play a role in holding the ANC to account. Sadly, power corrupts, and he seems to be an easy victim

  • I agree with the article. Thank you for shining a light on this desperate behaviour. ….but maybe the word ‘toxic’ at the end isn’t appropriate? …its moving into the emotive, and please let DM keep to the highest standard of integrity in its journalism, no matter how infuriating and depressing the antics of politicians such as Malema are. In an opinion piece, fine, but rather not in one of the main articles.

    • Mark, don’t you think you are a bit ultra-sensitive, focussing on a word, rather than on the content. Whilst it is headlines as an “analysis” but is in fact an opinion piece, as many people might actually disagree with this analysis/opinion of Stephen. If one is so sensitive, soon we will called a blatant murder a “putting to permanent sleep” I actually thought Stephen was holding back, as Malema himself has made utterances much, much worse.

  • Just like Zuma. Haha. I will go to jail for my beliefs. Haha. This morpn will wet his pants if he is jailed. NPA can you please take hom at his word and temove the clown from civil society.

  • His aim is clearly to ferment racial division with the issue at the Uitsig school in Centurian being a case in point where a pupil arrived at school in a red EFF overall and sporting dreadlocks only to be sent home. But of course he cries racism. We should all treat this fool with the contempt he deserves

  • Unfortunately the opacity and slowness of the SA government vaccine rollout process create openings for demagogues like Malema. The public does deserve to know more about why more vaccine options are not being made available. ‘Awaiting information’ sounds a little feeble.

  • An unknown entity may benefit from bad publicity over the short term. To choose wild statements as a long-term strategy to keep youself in the eye of the public will eventually boomerang.
    The red berets have made the wrong decisions from the beginning and is now in a catch-22. They cannot suddenly change tack to create a new image as the old one built on negativity is too established already. To continue like this will eventually lead to its expire-by-date sooner than later. To change now will do it even faster.
    The bloody agent and his party is not very far from running their boat on the rocks.

  • I tend to want to agree with the minority of commentators. I’m not sure why we give him coverage. Maybe balanced reporting? Me, as functioning idiot, would just have ignored him completely.

  • This tragic character is the walking, talking antithesis of the Disaster Management Act. How much longer are the protectors of our Democracy going to allow this windbag to disseminate his putrid, racist doctrine? This joke isn’t funny anymore; time to re-caulk this genie back in his Blue Label bottle.

  • Reporting on the deplorable antics of Malema and the EFF – as done in this article – exposes them for what they are. Please continue to do so.

  • Malema reminds me of Donald Trump. He feels nothing for the people that he incites. I spoke to an American whom I met briefly in Paris in 2019. We compared Zuma and Trump and he held the notion that whilst Zuma is “just” corrupt, Trump is evil.

  • Lurching from ill-informed issues around race, WMC and violence, and having had most of his platform hijacked by the ANC, there is a correlation between his incendiary comments and a new vote coming nearer.

  • The worst mistake to be made is to brush off Juju’s vitriol. Whilst most of us here on DM can argue with logic, the support base of the EFF is fueled by red t-shirts and a free meal, and no amount of logic can argue a hungry tummy. In the 21st era, it is the emotive rhetoric that wins votes. Like typical narcistic style, we have to waste time to unpack the lies and falsehoods, whilst the crux of real issues (and accountability) are lost in the muddle. Anyone else getting deja vu to classic Bell Pottinger tactics….?

    • Agree with your comments 100%. The saddest thing is that the DA should be doing real positive things with disadvantaged communities ( including feeding hungry tummies) but have to spend their time being the political policemen exposing and fighting the antics of the ANC and EFF instead.

      • I agree with you entirely Jane. The DA must focus on becoming relevant to all South Africans otherwise they will forever just be the opposition.

  • When will this dreadful man be properly prosecuted for even some of his illegal statements. He seems to get away with just about anything!! Unfortunately he has a following and we know from elections that the EFF get votes from a cross-section of unemployed and dissatisfied folk who think they have nothing to lose. The
    longer the ANC is in power the more support he will get. We cannot depend on “thinking voters” using their vote wisely.

    • You are misinformed. It is a myth that the EFF membership is made up of disaffected, frustrated unemployed youth.
      EFF membership demographics show an educated, professional electorate, consisting of economists, accountants, lawyers, academics, entrepreneurs, students, business-owners, militant activists, workers’ movements, none governmental organisations, community-based organisations and lobby groups under the umbrella of pursuing the struggle for economic emancipation. These are the people making up EFF voters. You should go and talk to some of them before making assumptions. Think: Dali Mpofu, SC, advocate. You may not like it; but that’s the targetted demographic of the EFF.

  • Well I am no EFF voter but what frustrates me is that there is no viable opposition. All the DA and the EFF do is criticize government, there is no vision, no inspiration, no leadership. Where are the Mandela’s, the Biko’s, the Obama’s and the Churchill’s? The entire planet seems to be plagued by self serving and/or cowardly politicians. Covid-19 should have brought out the real men and women, but none could be found. People deserve the leadership they get – what does that say about society as a whole?

    • Hear Hear! Politics has always attracted the worst of greedy humans whether for power, wealth or prestige…..decent people don’t seem to be good enough for political life these days….even in true democracies like the US ( hopefully Biden will prove me wrong,) and the UK ( where Boris the clown continues to grow a long nose with all the lies he tells! EU politicians appear to have mastered the art of appearing to be decent – but this is possibly because there are so many of them competing for the top spot of “ most decent leader in Europe” Go figure!

  • He is simply another distraction to attempt to draw attention away from the real issues – the ANC’s total lack of competence and the continued looting of state coffers.

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