Trying to get that scoop from Malema is harder than it seems

2015-07-23 13:43
EFF leader Julius Malema.

EFF leader Julius Malema.

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Let me start off by saying I’m not a political journalist or political anything, but when the need arises to cover the beat I often jump to the challenge.

In this case the challenge was following Economic Freedom Fighters leader Julius Malema on his door-to-door visits of a town in Rustenburg, North West, ahead of the party’s second anniversary.

Its midday in Johannesburg, the first item on the EFF’s agenda starts at 3pm and it only takes two hours to get to Rustenburg – that’s if you know where you’re going.

To fix that detail I go to our old trusted friend Google to get directions before our trekking adventure.

A colleague offers advice on the quickest route and gives a few landmarks to make the journey easy.

By 12.15pm the car is packed, petrol tank is full, Google maps directions are in hand and we head off to Rustenburg.

I haven’t seen Malema in the media much lately, and with MPs exploring President Jacob Zuma’s homestead in Nkandla I wonder what he will say when he addresses a crowd at 5pm in another North West mining town.

“Pay back the money” springs to mind, but I also reckon this week is just about reinforcing the EFF’s founding promises.

Two hours and 143km later we reach Rustenburg. The programme says the first of three events will take place in Plastic View.

And like most people, I trust the ordinary man on the street for directions more than the navigation lady and so we stop and ask. The press release mentions two townships – Boitekong and Luka.

Since the EFF was at the former the day before, we assume it will be at the latter today, and since no one from the party is taking our calls we go with our guts.

So we make our way to Luka after asking for directions at a petrol station. On the way I realise that taxi drivers in the CBD are no different from the ones in Joburg – ah well.

An attendant at the second petrol station sets us on the right track to Luka – the signs are there to prove it – but still no one has ever heard of Plastic View.

We spot some women and stop again to ask about Plastic View. One says: “I know all the areas around here and none of them is called Plastic View”. Strange right? How can the EFF send us to a place that doesn’t exist? We ask if they heard of an EFF rally in the area and they point us in the direction of a man in a red beret – but it’s marked Orlando Pirates.

Its 3.15pm. We’re late. One of our calls to the party’s spokesperson, Mbuyiseni Ndlozi, finally goes through. He lets us know that we missed the walkabout.

We find that hard to believe. But oh well, on to the next venue, where Malema will be meeting with the families of those who died at Aquarius Mine in 2009.

After a round trip to the city centre, a man on the street sets us on the right road to Jabula hostel. I have my reservations about visiting hostels but the job needs to be done.

A few kilometres and rail tracks later we spot a couple of red  T-shirts and berets that assure us we are at the right place. People are overflowing from a white tent set in the middle of an empty space and Malema can be heard in the distance.

Camera in hand, we try make our way inside the tent but community members tell us to keep behind the red tape.

“I’m part of the media,” I want to say, but refrain from doing do. I find a spot next to one of the bodyguards, who doesn’t seem too happy to see me there, but what the hell? The job needs to be done. I start recording. It’s a terrible angle but it’s something.

Malema is delivering his speech in Sesotho. He’s on a green carpeted platform with several other EFF heads.

He invites the community to the anniversary rally at Olympia Park Stadium on Saturday.

“It’s a party for the poor. If you are not poor you shouldn’t go there,” he says.

And then he talks about giving a new wheelchair to an elderly lady sitting in the crowd.

There’s commotion as he gets off the stage. I rush in for a better shot but the bodyguards push me away. There goes that story.

Ten seconds later Malema is in his car. We manage to squeeze in our request for a short interview with the spokesperson but it falls on deaf ears. We watch them speed off from the dusty community but are determined to get something with the commander in chief, so we follow.

The gravel road makes it easy for us to catch up, and the area is riddled with speed humps that help us keep up with the VW Golf GTI and the Mercedes Benz Viano.

Road works, peak-hour traffic and stops signs leave us lagging behind but we still see them in the distance.

In Rustenburg CBD we are right behind them and proud of our efforts but scared of getting shot at as we might have posed as a security threat for the party leader.

Before we finish that thought we lose them because of a red traffic light. Dream dashed and with defeated spirits we drive through the CBD aimlessly.

By chance we spot them outside Olympia Park Stadium – makes sense right? We are prepared to camp outside their hotel until they grant our request. We only need 15 minutes.

People in red overalls are busy inside the stadium putting structures in place for Saturday’s event. I get a few behind-the-scenes shots from a distance and we spot Malema and his entourage walking around. We go around to the next entrance to get closer.

We get a hold of the spokesperson, who agrees to heed our request.

“You’re a Sunday publication and we can’t give you an exclusive of something that is happening on Saturday,” says Ndlozi.

He invites us to the event, tells us to bring a cooler box and come party and we’ll get all we need then. I’m afraid that’s not enough. We have a list of questions ready.

As we keep negotiating for our interview, Malema steps into the spotlight with the eNCA crew. Ndlozi explains that this is because they are a 24-hour news channel. He offers to give us the background info we need but this is still not enough.

By this time the sun has set and their faces are illuminated by the stadium lights.

I have never been in their presence before but my colleague has been acquainted. I must say it was a little strange meeting people I’ve only seen on television and Twitter. Can’t quite describe it, so I’ll leave it at strange.

You must be wondering what this post is about. It’s nothing more than the chronicles of two young women chasing after a political figure for a scoop. 
Read more on:    rustenburg  |  eff

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