Julius Malema and the Mkhwebane/Manyi EFF enlargement — will the host party accept the transplants?
The decision by EFF leader Julius Malema to appoint the removed Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane as an MP, along with the introduction of another high-profile new member, poses some interesting questions about the party’s internal dynamics. At the same time, Malema’s comments about a magistrate are so obviously untrue that he could find himself in a difficult position.
Mzwanele Manyi and Busisiwe Mkhwebane made their reputations outside the Julius Malema & Floyd Shivambu orbit, arguably the first such arrivals to the EFF who are not called Dali Mpofu.
While there are many elements to consider with regard to the EFF, the most important is voter support. And the spread of predictions of the votes it will receive in the general election next year is wide. In a column in the Sunday Times, Peter Bruce cited one poll suggesting the EFF would get 17% and another predicting it would win just 9%.
So, either the EFF has unstoppable momentum or it is about to lose significant power and most of its influence. It is on this difficult ground that much analysis about the party must rest — it is impossible to know if its support base is growing or shrinking.
Mkhwebane’s decision to join the EFF and the introduction of Manyi point to an important shift in the party’s internal dynamics.
As both Mkhwebane and Manyi are now MPs, Malema will feel obliged for them to have high-profile roles in the EFF.
However, along with the name recognition they bring, come possible problems.
The first is that both may feel that they are not dependent on Malema. While they clearly need him at the moment, they had high-profile careers before joining the party. This makes them different from the vast majority of leaders in the EFF and possibly almost all of the party’s members. They may not always agree to accept Malema’s edicts.
Both Manyi and Mkhwebane have significant baggage after supporting former president Jacob Zuma and his agenda. This baggage is now resting with the EFF.
Both have also shown that they can change their personal direction very quickly.
Manyi was first tied to Zuma and the Guptas and has now jumped ship to the EFF (presumably because he believes that Zuma no longer has political power, or understands they are on the same team).
Mkhwebane made a finding that Parliament must change the constitutional mandate of the Reserve Bank, and then, when it was challenged in court, abandoned that finding.
This shows that she too can cut and run when the going gets tough, and Malema may well find it difficult to rely on one or both when they speak in Parliament. They could express strongly held views that conflict with his on certain matters (such as the Middle East, for example).
In addition, a large group in the EFF are likely to be feeling aggrieved because people they support have lost their positions as councillors, members of provincial legislatures or MPs, which could mean turmoil for the party, although it’s unlikely to become public.
Malema mouths off
Malema is facing public censure for his comments last week about the magistrate hearing the case in which he is charged with firing a gun illegally in East London five years ago.
Last week, the magistrate, Twanet Olivier, ruled that the case against Malema must continue and dismissed his discharge application which argued that he had no case to answer.
Immediately afterwards, Malema told supporters outside the court that Olivier was an “incompetent magistrate who comes late to court, can’t get her papers in order, can’t read her judgments and adjourns the court while delivering those judgments to take a back seat and receive calls from Pravin Gordhan, President Cyril Ramaphosa and Shamila Batohi.”
He has not provided any evidence for his claims. And while it may well be within the bounds of freedom of political speech to make certain claims, it is almost certain that he was lying.
Certainly, he has given no evidence to show that Gordhan, Ramaphosa or Batohi have had any influence on the case.
As Judges Matter points out, this will have a huge impact on judges.
His statement was clearly designed to intimidate Olivier, and presumably, other members of the judiciary as well.
It’s part of a long-running campaign in which he has claimed, again without evidence, that judges are influenced by Ramaphosa and other ANC politicians.
This is despite the fact that he and Shivambu have received findings in their favour. Malema and former EFF spokesperson Mbuyiseni Ndlozi were cleared of assaulting a police officer despite video evidence of what the law has previously defined as assault.
Shivambu was also cleared of assault after pushing a News24 photographer against a wall in the parliamentary precinct.
This has led to speculation about the EFF’s relationship with the law.
But one of the strange aspects of this most recent case is that while the magistrate ruled Malema has a case to answer, he will probably be acquitted of illegally discharging a firearm (this is because it is still not known who took the video, leading to chain-of-evidence issues, and none of Malema’s bodyguards on the day can remember him firing a gun).
This means that if he is acquitted, some voters may feel that it was only because he intimidated the magistrate.
Truth and lies
Also, it is entirely possible that Gordhan, Ramaphosa or Batohi could sue him for defamation (the magistrate, bound by judicial ethics, cannot).
And a court action is likely to reveal that Malema lied last week (unless, of course, evidence of his claim magically comes to light).
However, it should not be presumed that any of this was accidental.
Malema has spent much time and energy focusing on the judiciary, including being a member of the Judicial Service Commission (JSC).
In that position, he appeared to have an influence on the JSC’s debates and decisions (along with other commissioners, including Mpofu).
This latest claim is part of a deliberate, calculated campaign to undermine the judiciary.
Of course, the next question is, what impact will this have on public perceptions of the judiciary?
This may well depend on the outcome of next year’s elections, which is also partially dependent on the party’s internal dynamics.
For the moment, it is impossible to tell whether the EFF will win 17% of the vote, or just 9%, and thus what long-term impact Malema’s comments about the judiciary will actually have. DM