Juju returns to Mangaung

2014-12-14 15:00

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It is “with no regrets at all” that Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) leader Julius Malema returns to Mangaung this weekend.

It was there, six years ago, that he first rose to fame. This time he is not an emerging young leader in the mighty governing ANC, but a member of Parliament and an established leader of a much smaller opposition party.

“We have no regrets at all. We are going to Mangaung as born-agains who have realised that they were actually singing a wrong gospel,” he told City Press this week.

Malema said he worked hard in the ANC for his ideal of economic freedom. But after clashing with President Jacob Zuma and being expelled from the ANC and his leadership position in the ANC Youth League in 2012, Malema’s tune has changed.

“I couldn’t have imagined in 2008 that I can emerge one day in Mangaung as a leader of an opposition party,” he said.

Malema is expected to remain his party’s “commander in chief” for the foreseeable future.

“I’m still very young. I want to be available to serve the organisation for many years to come, not only as a president, but [even] as a member and activist.

“Even going to this conference, I don’t go there with an expectation of being elected president or desperately wanting to lead the EFF because I feel entitled.”

Sitting in his office at the party’s headquarters in a youthful, trendy precinct in Braamfontein, Malema looked middle-aged and tired in his red checked shirt, dark trousers and pointy red Gianfranco shoes.

He said his party has “shaken up” Parliament this year, but he has lately been occupied with trying to finish his BA degree in politics and citizenship through Unisa.

His colleague, party chief whip Floyd Shivambu, this week graduated with his master’s degree – with distinction.

Malema said he skipped exams in the first semester because of elections, so he had eight subjects to cram in at the end of the year. At the same time, things were exploding in Parliament.

“I hope for the best, because it has been very intense. The last paper, I was very tired,” he said.

If he passes all eight exams, he will only be left with two modules to finish before graduating.

Malema said his party would not disrupt President Zuma’s state of the nation speech in February next year, but he must “answer [our] questions first”.

There are also the 2016 local government elections to consider.

Malema said the party would go back to tried and tested methods of recruiting voters and setting up structures instead of relying on headline-grabbing protests to get votes.

“One of the things we got extremely wrong [in the 2014 general elections] is the registration of voters. People came to our rallies in their numbers, yet they were not registered.

“If it is a protest, go support the protest as a vanguard of the protest movement, but don’t use that as if it’s your political programme.

“You ought to have an exclusive EFF programme that is mass based and attracts its own numbers, and not piggyback on protests.”

After the elections, the EFF will be happy to work with “all parties that embrace left politics”, like the emerging United Front, formed by the National Union of Metalworkers of SA.

The EFF conference will take place in the same hall at the University of the Free State as the failed youth league conference of 2008, which degenerated into a mooning contest.

Cope’s founding conference was held in the same venue a few months later.

A group calling themselves the EFF Defenders, who are unhappy with Malema’s leadership, have threatened to have the congress outcomes overturned and also to protest at the gates of the conference.

Lufuno Gogoro, who leads the group that consists of disgruntled members from seven provinces, called Malema a “dictator, a liar and a coconut” for blocking some opponents from attending.

Malema has brushed off their concerns, saying: “We must celebrate democracy, but it should not be confused with factionalism.”

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