Julius Malema: the misunderstood Cinderella of SA politics?

2014-04-27 09:29

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I don’t mean to rain on his revolution but Juju really put his foot in it this time – or did he?

Over the phone, a sweet lady at the Louis Vuitton boutique in Sandton tells me that their handmade leather men’s shoes cost on average R7 500 a pair. She says the majority of their clients are men, who just “love” the quality. And who wouldn’t?

The French label has been named the world’s most valuable luxury brand for six consecutive years. It started diverting from its signature luggage line to high-end fashion and footwear in 1997.

Baggage aside, the EFF commander-in-chief’s fashion choices sparked questions when he was spotted hitting the election campaign trail in a pair of silver-buckle-embellished Louis Vuitton loafers last week.

Does the shoe fit? Picture: Simphiwe Nkwali/Sunday Times

This week Juju explained that his lavish lifestyle – presumably also his bling shoes – serve to “inspire the poor”. This stands in stark contrast to his speech at the EFF’s manifesto launch in February, when he lauded Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan’s introduction of new austerity measures to curb spending among government officials.

The EFF’s website did not offer further clarification on austerity versus Louis Vuitton footwear; and imported French apparel was notably absent on the party’s merchandise page.

However, the EFF’s constitution promises “free quality education, healthcare, houses and sanitation” – saying, for example: “The state, at all levels, should have the obligation to provide sanitation wherever people reside. This is a fundamental human right, which should lead to the abolishment of bucket and pit toilets.”

Interestingly, R7 500 could rent 19 portable toilets for a month or buy 68 pairs of school shoes (priced at R110 a pair) at Pep.

Three years ago upset Cape Town caterers approached my newspaper, which subsequently ran a story headlined “Malema’s mahala J&B Met booze spree”. At the time caterers relayed how Juju and 30 friends partied in a VIP tent at the horse race, leaving empty whisky bottles and an unpaid R50 000 bar tab in their wake. The group bought several bottles of Moët (R1000 a bottle), Veuve Clicquot (R900) and Johnnie Walker Blue Label (R3 500).

The caterers said apple juice was a popular addition to the scotch. During the course of the night they ran out of Johnnie Walker and Minute Maid, and rushed to Harley’s Liquor to restock supplies. Juju wore purple silk pants and a pink jacket by local designer David Tlale.

In an open letter published on Wednesday, convicted gangster turned politician Gayton McKenzie calls Malema “the biggest thief I have ever met”, likening him to Nongqawuse, the Xhosa prophetess whose visions incited the mass extermination of cattle and crops in the Eastern Cape in 1856, causing famine and many deaths.

“You bankrupted the ANC Youth League. You bankrupted Limpopo. You bankrupted yourself. Now you want to bankrupt what’s left in South Africa,” McKenzie writes. Malema replied that such commentary was normal in the political “boxing match” known to precede elections.

The online Free Dictionary defines a champagne socialist as “a professed socialist who enjoys an extravagant lifestyle”. Will we soon see selected red berets cut from silk?

Uruguayan president José Mujica made international headlines when he was dubbed the “world’s poorest president” because of his humble lifestyle, which includes Vespa scooter transfers and monthly donations to charity there.

The ex-Guerilla leader famously said: “My definition of poor are those who need too much. Because those who need too much are never satisfied.”

Back home, one can’t help but wonder: does the shoe fit? Is Malema the misunderstood Cinderella of South African politics or the Nongqawuse of our time?

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