Who is the real bastard, Mr Malema?

Julius Malema (Felix Dlangamandla, Netwerk24)
Julius Malema (Felix Dlangamandla, Netwerk24)

The Collins dictionary defines the word "bastard" as follows: "[A]n insulting word which some people use about a person, especially a man, who has behaved very badly."

This week Julius Malema, the leader of the Economic Freedom Fighters, used the word to describe Advocate Paul Pretorius SC, evidence leader for the Zondo commission into state capture, during his diatribe outside the commission's hearings in Johannesburg.

During the same speech, Malema called Minister Pravin Gordhan a "dog", racist and corrupt; singled out journalists by name who, according to him, belonged to the "Ramaphosa Defence Force" and should be dealt with "decisively" by EFF supporters, and warned of "casualties" and a "loss of lives" in their fight with Gordhan.

Malema further made serious defamatory claims against Gordhan and his family, including that his daughter Anisha was benefitting from tenders and that Pravin Gordhan had a secret bank account in Canada into which bribes are paid.

Malema did not provide any evidence to back up his claims.

Gordhan has denied the Canada claims and News24 independently investigated Anisha Gordhan's involvement as a non-executive director in companies doing business with government and found no proof that she was remunerated.

The true reason for Malema's erratic outburst would emerge 24 hours later when the Daily Maverick published an exposé that revealed Malema and the EFF were benefitting from money deposited by poor South Africans and municipalities into VBS Mutual Bank.

The story revealed how Malema and his "militant" party allegedly received money for the EFF's birthday celebrations and to pay off a Sandown house Malema lived in with VBS money, funnelled through the business accounts of Malema's cousin and Floyd Shivambu's brother.

If these allegations are proven in a court of law, Malema could go to jail for money laundering and benefitting from the proceeds of crime, among other offences.

Malema and Shivambu deny wrongdoing but have not put up an explanation for the money flows revealed by Daily Maverick.

So why the attacks on Gordhan, Pretorius and a string of journalists?

Malema knows for the EFF to improve its size of the vote in next year's election from the 1.2 million votes it received in 2014, the party has to be seen as the champion of anti-corruption.

For a long time, the EFF and DA benefitted from Jacob Zuma's crooked leadership of the ANC to style themselves as the crusaders against corruption. And they deserve credit for their role in taking Zuma and the Guptas down: the DA brought numerous cases to the courts and the Public Protector that led to real action being taken. The EFF led the Nkandla case, that led to a finding by the Constitutional Court that Zuma broke his oath of office.

How ironic that the same bank – VBS Mutual – that ultimately agreed to pay Zuma's bond for Nkandla, is now at the centre of the spectacular unravelling of the EFF.

Since the swearing-in of Cyril Ramaphosa as president, Malema and his party have been on the backfoot, not quite knowing where or how to attack the "new dawn" ANC. The DA has pounced on any sniff of a scandal emerging from the governing party, like Ramaphosa's foolish acceptance of campaign money from corruption implicated Bosasa.

The EFF has made Gordhan – the prime bulwark against full-scale looting by the Zuptas – their main target. Anyone else who dares to criticise them is fair game.

Malema has lost his short-lived shine as an energetic force against rent-seeking and corruption and is throwing mud at anyone to divert attention from his own sins, of which there are plenty.

Apart from the unfolding VBS scandal, the NPA is expected to announce soon whether he will again face charges of corruption, fraud and money-laundering for benefitting from crooked Limpopo road tenders through his family trust. The police must decide whether to charge him for shooting with a semi-automatic weapon from the stage of an EFF rally.

I was part of the reporting team that revealed how his Ratanang Family Trust benefitted from On-Point Engineering's Limpopo tenders in 2012. This week I experienced severe déjà vu. Instead of building proper roads for the people of Limpopo, Malema bought Gucci clothes and booked five-star hotels.

His playbook was the same: intimidate and attack the messenger harshly to the point where journalists rather smile and walk away than take him on for his blatant disregard of the truth and alleged criminal ways.

It's time for some real introspection, Mr Malema. Who is the real bastard here? The advocate trying to get to the bottom of who almost stole our country's future from your and my children, or the person allegedly eating poor people's money to live a life he pretends to detest?

(Post script: Malema will call me a white racist for writing this piece or refer to the rubbish in my pants or call his supporters to deal with me "decisively". His Twitter disciples will tweet Photoshopped pictures of me hanging with Johann Rupert or the Oppenheimers and claim that News24 is now also part of the Ramaphosa Defence Force. It's all so predictable and boring.)

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