Newsmaker: ‘We apologise for Malema’

2015-02-15 17:00

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Lufuno Gogoro says Julius Malema is doing a terrible job of leading the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF), but he partly blames himself.

Gogoro, a self-proclaimed founder of the red berets, says he and others worked hard to get Malema on board after coming up with the idea for the EFF.

In an echo of Malema apologising for helping to bring President Jacob Zuma to power, Gogoro says he and his fellow fighters “apologise for bringing Malema into the EFF”.

Proudly sporting one of the party’s trademark berets, he said this week: “We founded the EFF, believed in it and identified Malema as a potential leader because he was a crowd-puller and had a daring character.

“He had also revived the spirit of participation in politics for the youth at a time when we thought politics was for old men.”

Gogoro was a member of the ANC Youth League (ANCYL) under Malema’s leadership when the latter was hauled before an ANC disciplinary committee for misconduct.

“We supported him through hard times because he represented our view,” he said.

Gogoro was also among those ANCYL members who formed the Asijiki Defence Force and camped outside Luthuli House during Malema’s disciplinary hearings.

Despite their vocal support, he said Malema was “doubtful at first and not optimistic about EFF” when they approached him.

“But we ... convinced him otherwise. In the end he joined us and brought in some people and mobilised support.

“He was down and out at the time. Werescued him from the political dustbin because we believed in him and that South African politics could not lose such a young, brilliant politician – but we were very wrong.

“We believed he had learnt from his mistakes and would turn out to be a good leader – but how wrong we were.”

Gogoro has emerged as a thorn in Malema’s side since he was sidelined at the EFF’s Gauteng and national conferences.

He is now one of the commander in chief’s most vocal detractors.

The 35-year-old, who hails from Limpopo like Malema, comes from the province’s Nzhelele area in Vhembe.

But he is also a familiar face in Gauteng, where he rose to prominence about five years ago as the spokesperson for the Greater Gauteng Business Forum.

The forum was working to shut down foreign-owned shops in townships.

“I still believe foreign-owned shops are killing local businesses and they need to be regularised so we don’t have too many swallowing local businesses,” said Gogoro.

He said the other option was to find a way of getting foreign and local businesspeople to work together.

In 2013 the forum said it believed foreigners should be placed in work camps and not be allowed to do business in townships.

But Gogoro said this was not his view.

“I’m the one who has, after the recent lootings of foreign-owned shops, helped them reopen the shops in my area [of Freedom Park near Eldorado Park].

“I am totally against looting and xenophobia, because we’re disciplined fighters in the EFF and not hooligans or anarchists.”

His quest is to “save the EFF from Malema and remove him from the party leadership so we can get back to representing the poor and marginalised and not [fight] Malema’s political and personal battles with Zuma”.

But who will replace Malema?

Gogoro rather fancies his own chances and has been mocked for making his ambitions clear on social-media platforms.

“I will lead the EFF. It doesn’t matter when, but God will protect me.” He hastened to add: “I am aware that the decision lies with branches.”

He also rated Khanyisile Litchfield-Tshabalala and Andile Mngxitama as excellent leadership candidates, saying they would be “more focused” than Malema.

“The man is obsessed with Zuma and he is using the platform in Parliament and everywhere to take a swipe at Zuma, so ‘pay back the money’ has become a hit track for our MPs, who seem to have forgotten about our manifesto,” said Gogoro.

“While people must be held accountable, it will not help the poor, unemployed, domestic workers and security guards whether Zuma pays back the money or not.

“Lots of time, energy and logistics have been spent while people are still living in poverty and fighting for a living wage.

“Malema instigates people to do wrong and distances himself from them. He promised to join the masses in protests, but he’s rarely there because he is busy chanting ‘pay back the money’.”

Gogoro said this was not to say Zuma should not repay the money taxpayers forked out for security upgrades at his Nkandla home, but the fight to hold him to account should be more organised.

“A dedicated committee could gather logistics and popularise the campaign while our parliamentarians raise other burning issues, as cited in our manifesto.”

Contacted for comment on Friday morning, hours after he and his EFF MPs were evicted from Parliament by security personnel, Malema sounded exhausted.

He said he had more serious things to do than respond to Gogoro’s comments about him.

“I am not going to entertain that. We are focused on national issues,” he said.

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