Malema and Shivambu: Irresistible comparison with Idi Amin

2018-06-24 10:16
Julius Malema, leader of the EFF (Picture: Gallo Images)

Julius Malema, leader of the EFF (Picture: Gallo Images)

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Julius Malema and Floyd Shivambu founded the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) on July 10 2013. Both are former executive members of the ANC Youth League who left the organisation after falling foul of its disciplinary processes.

Radical in its approach and unorthodox in its modus operandi, the party is distinguishable by its trademark red berets, red shirts and trousers or overalls that are worn by the men, and the red berets or doeks, skirts and pinafores that are worn by the women. The outfits signify the EFF’s solidarity with the country’s domestic workers and manual labourers.

That the EFF is a significant player in contemporary South African politics cannot be denied. Soon after its formation, the party was in pole position to play the role of political kingmaker. Showing its utter disdain for the ANC, it afforded the DA coalition majorities in the Tshwane, Nelson Mandela Bay and Johannesburg metros after the 2016 local government elections.

The EFF’s raison d’etre is encapsulated in its very name, which proclaims the organisation’s intention to pursue the struggle for the economic liberation of black South Africans. It’s an objective admitted by all to have been excruciatingly slow to accomplish after the attainment of political freedom in 1994.

The EFF has stated as its top priorities the implementation of what it calls its “non-negotiable principles” of land expropriation and the nationalisation of mines, both without compensation.

Utilising its militant youth wing, the EFF Student Command, the organisation swiftly filled the void created by the lackadaisical performance of the ANC Youth League and its effete Progressive Youth Alliance. The EFF Student Command boasts a commanding 170 seats and  13 student representative councils in institutions of higher learning across the country. The EFF Student Command obviously understands student concerns and it has enhanced its popularity on campuses by vigorously supporting these issues, including the #RhodesMustFall and #FeesMustFall student movements. The ANC Youth League dismissed these campaigns and said they were created by a “third force”.

The arrival of the EFF’s 25 MPs in the National Assembly – after garnering 6.35% of the national vote – introduced a vim and robustness hitherto unknown in parliamentary debates. In its behaviour, the EFF showed scant regard for decorum, tested the dictates of protocol to the limit and, when the actors so desired, simply mocked civility.

A singular EFF achievement was taking former president Jacob Zuma to the Constitutional Court. With majoritarian support from ANC MPs, Zuma had persistently refused to heed EFF-led chants to “pay back the money”. Zuma was being asked to reimburse the state for non-security upgrades at his home in Nkandla, as recommended by then Public Protector Thuli Madonsela.

In a famous victory for the EFF, the court confirmed the binding nature of the Public Protector’s recommendations unless legally challenged as prescribed. The court also found that, in his handling of the Nkandla case, Zuma had failed to “uphold, defend and respect” the Constitution, and was thus in breach of his oath of office.

The EFF deserves credit for this historical decision and for a number of other achievements, including its attention to burning youth issues in tertiary institutions and its unwavering call for the return of land lost during colonial conquest. The EFF’s approach to debates in Parliament is characteristically robust, if at times overzealous. One thing is for sure, its actions created unprecedented public interest in parliamentary proceedings.

Despite these impressive achievements, the EFF has not always got it right. The culprits: the deportment of its senior leaders, specifically of Malema and Shivambu. That the two have been willing to apologise afterwards merely illustrates the point I’m making.

Apropos the highly publicised and most unfortunate Ismail Momoniat case, everything the contending parties wished to say has been said. Suffice to say, the incident has not advanced social cohesion.

History, it must be stated, is replete with examples of dire consequences that befall societies when ethnicity is recklessly used for opportunistic short-term ends. In the late 1960s, Ugandan dictator Idi Amin expelled tens of thousands of Asians from the country on the pretext that they were involved in economic sabotage. He was widely cheered for this by people who saw it as giving them the opportunity to take possession of shops abandoned by the expelled citizens. Before long, Amin turned to indigenous Ugandans and conducted an ethnic purge that resulted in at least 100 000 deaths during his nine-year rule. This is only one of many examples of ugly ethnicity-based atrocities around the world.

Timely as that digression may be, the point of my narrative concerns issues of organisational integrity. EFF president Malema has for some time now been the subject of corruption allegations, a matter that one hopes would make the party concerned.

Article 7 of the EFF manifesto enjoins the party to conduct its affairs with transparency. Acting on this injunction, and informing the public about its findings, would greatly assist the party and, indeed, Malema himself in clearing the air about these grave allegations. Regardless of what the party leadership may believe, this is the Achilles heel of the organisation.

This does not by any long measure, I must add, imply culpability on Malema’s part. It is possible that some of the allegations are merely of a malicious nature. However, Madonsela’s On the Point of Tenders report, which is in the public domain, has to be taken seriously.

Madonsela reported that, when a R52m road construction tender in Limpopo was awarded to Malema and his partner’s company, On-Point Engineering, the company “had existed for approximately one month, had no employees, no assets or annual turnover”.

Scary stuff, this.

Then there is Malema’s alleged friendship with Adriano Mazzotti, who has been accused of tobacco smuggling. A City Press story a while ago claimed that Mazzotti said he had given the EFF R200 000 so that it could register to contest elections. The same Mazzotti is also alleged to have admitted to The Citizen that he had bribed public officials. If the EFF has investigated these allegations and found them to be baseless, it should inform the public in the usual manner.

Malema has on previous occasions demonstrated the courage to apologise when he realised that he had made a mistake. His apology to former president Thabo Mbeki in 2016 for his role in the connived removal of Mbeki from office is a case in point.

Another is his apology in 2009 to Khwezi’s family and his reported payment of R50 000 as a token of sorrow for insensitively claiming that Khwezi, who had accused Zuma of raping her, had enjoyed sex with Zuma because “in the morning, that lady requested breakfast and taxi money”.

What is being asked of the EFF leadership and Malema himself is nothing more or less than what the EFF and Malema asked of Zuma and the ANC to do regarding the money spent on the Nkandla upgrades.

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