Adriaan Basson: The cost of Julius Malema's lies

EFF leader Julius Malema   Photo: Waldo Swiegers
EFF leader Julius Malema Photo: Waldo Swiegers

Let there be no doubt: Julius Malema and the EFF are on an aggressive path to delegitimise and demean anyone who doesn't agree with them or who threatens to expose their hypocrisy or alleged criminality, writes Adriaan Basson.

"What is the cost of lies?" asks the main protagonist right at the start of the brilliant miniseries Chernobyl.

"It's not that we'll mistake them for the truth. The real danger is that if we hear enough lies, then we no longer recognise the truth at all."

The quote resonated with me loudly and chillingly last week as I listened to leaders of the EFF, South Africa's third-largest political party that attracted almost 1.9 million votes in the May elections, speaking after two separate court cases.

The EFF is in court now on almost a weekly basis, either defending themselves against claims of defamation or hate speech or pursuing their own lawfare strategy against President Cyril Ramaphosa and Public Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan, their nemesis-in-chief.

Last week, after the Gauteng High Court in Pretoria heard arguments from the South African National Editors' Forum (Sanef) on the EFF's hateful approach against journalists who report critically on the party, Malema brazenly repeated his new favourite lie about Gordhan "masquerading as Sanef".

In Malema's world of lies, the journalists (including myself) who brought the court action against the EFF because of the real intimidation we felt and experienced as a result of Malema's hateful comments, are mere puppets of Gordhan.

We cannot think for ourselves and are handled by Gordhan and Ramaphosa, our "favourites", claimed the self-styled "commander-in-chief" who loves to present himself as the real bearer of truths.

It doesn't matter to him that News24, the publication I edit, was at the forefront of exposing Andile Ramaphosa's links to Bosasa or was the first to publish the secret emails that draw into question Ramaphosa's proximity to his ANC campaign donors.

Like Donald Trump, Malema only believes his own "alternative facts" and thinks that if he repeats them enough it will drown out the facts. Like Trump, he may unfortunately be right.

Despite the EFF's failure to bring any concrete evidence of wrongdoing by Gordhan to the fore, they are presenting him now on an almost daily basis as the biggest thug in South Africa.

After Ramaphosa's successful application to postpone remedial action against Gordhan until the review of Public Protector Busisiswe Mkhwebane's report on the Ivan Pillay pension matter was heard, EFF spokesperson Mbuyiseni Ndlozi said it was now clear Gordhan is "above the law".

The EFF supported Mkhwebane in the application.

Ndlozi launched a full-out attack on Judge Lettie Molopa-Sethosa, moments after her judgment, that started with a tweet implying she is illiterate.

The EFF's attack on the judiciary continued unabated on Friday when Malema threatened to "take up arms" if the judiciary did not transform to get rid of judges who "judge people according to who appears before them" and are threatened by politicians.

This threat of violence is completely unacceptable behaviour for someone who claims to be a constitutionalist and actually sits on the Judicial Service Commission.

Let there be no doubt: Malema and his party are on an aggressive path to delegitimise and demean anyone who doesn't agree with them or who threatens to expose their hypocrisy or alleged criminality.

Because what they don't want is us talking about the On-Point Engineering case, that implicates Malema in syphoning off Limpopo government money to fund his flashy lifestyle; the VBS case where Malema and the EFF are implicated in taking poor people's money to fund a birthday party and the leader's Sandton house; the relationship between Malema, the EFF and cigarette smuggler Adriano Mazzotti, who is the Malema family's landlord; and the shooting of an assault rifle from the stage at the EFF's birthday party a year ago, that was supposed to be a simple criminal investigation.

The fact that none of these matters are currently enrolled before the courts should raise the question whether the EFF and Malema are above the law.

If Malema and his Twitter army have successfully shifted the narrative away from their own misdeeds to a world of alternative facts and fake news, that would have been the cost of the lie.

- Basson is editor-in-chief of News24.

We live in a world where facts and fiction get blurred
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