Fighters support, slam Malema at Free State rally

2015-02-22 11:20

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Some fighters came with a purpose, others came for the party, and a few drily said they were duped.

Amongst the 500 or so who attended yesterday’s rally in Bloemfontein labelled as one that would save the soul of the Economic Freedom Fighters, there were all types.

Tshidiso Phiri, an EFF branch chair from Theunissen, Free State, clad in EFF T-shirt and beret, said he did not agree with “the thing our leadership is doing”. He was referring to EFF leader Julius Malema and the way he and fellow leaders allegedly “misuse that money (of the party) for themselves”.

Phiri claimed that the current EFF leaders bought their positions “with money”, and added that former EFF national organiser Mpho Ramakatsa, who hails from the Free State and has a power base there, did not have enough money to do the same.

Ramakatsa, together with suspended EFF MP Andile Mngxitama, was one of the organisers of yesterday’s event. He was ousted from the EFF’s top structures during the party’s national gathering last year.

Phiri in December attended the EFF’s people’s assembly at the University of the Free State, only a few kilometres from the Mangaung Outdoor Sports Stadium in Rocklands where the weekend rally took place. He said it had left him disappointed.

“Julius Malema can be EFF leader, but we don’t want the people next to him.”

Sienah Brown, who is from the same branch in Theunissen, said they also wanted their own constituency offices because it took so long for membership cards to reach them that their membership expired in the meantime.

The mood at the rally was party-like but not as exuberant as political rallies often get. The most spirited singing and dancing happened in the late afternoon, when the event had finished. It started three hours late, around lunch time, and there was very little food during the day, even for those who had travelled far.

Not everyone was happy though. In the crowd there was a marked irritation amongst some when speaker after speaker slammed Malema about the Golf GTI that was bought with party money.

A 19-year-old from Botshabelo who was there with his girlfriend, and who wasn’t clad in EFF colours, said they were told by their leaders that there was an EFF rally – and they expected to see Malema.

“The leadership at Botshabelo didn’t tell us what is going to happen here. They only said there is an EFF rally in Bloemfontein. We thought we were here to support Julius Malema, but when we arrived we found there were two parts of the EFF and this one is putting Julius Malema on one side, and this one is on the other side.”

“As a youth it is the first time we are voting, and I don’t know who to believe now.”

The young man said he voted last year for the first time.

“If they told us some EFF MPs will be here and making speeches, I wouldn’t have come,” he said. “They are disrespecting Julius Malema’s image.”

Despite jitters that there would be disruptions at the rally, it went off fairly peacefully. Towards the end a bleeding and belligerent man ran into the club house, his breath smelling heavily of alcohol.

Organisers said he had too much to drink and provoked the security guards, but refused help when he was taken to hospital.

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