Africa Day: EFF in protest outside French embassy, says continent 'remains at mercy of former colonial masters'

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  • There was a standoff outside the French Embassy when the EFF refused to leave until it handed over a memorandum to the ambassador. 
  • Julius Malema urged his supporters to block the main road and make sure that no one left or entered the premises. 
  • The situation was defused when the French ambassador reluctantly came to accept the EFF's memorandum. 

A standoff ensued outside the French Embassy in Pretoria when the protesting EFF blockaded entrances and refused to leave until the ambassador, Aurélien Lechevallier, came out to receive a memorandum. 

Commemorating Africa Day, the EFF marched to the French Embassy to demand the European country withdraw its troops on the African continent. 

Outside the gates of the embassy, EFF leader Julius Malema demanded the French ambassador come out to receive the memorandum. 

Overwhelmed by the sheer numbers outside the gate, Lechevallier and his delegation informed the EFF leadership they would not be coming outside to receive the memorandum. 

Malema said they should not be afraid - because, unlike France, his party was not there to colonise anyone, but to engage "peacefully". 

READ | Africa Day: Our brothers and sisters on the continent are not our enemies - Ramaphosa

He called on the EFF protesters to block the main road - and told the French delegation that no one would leave until they came out, listened to him, read the memorandum, signed it, and then delivered it to their government. 

After a lengthy delay and engagements between the EFF leadership and the embassy, the stalemate was broken, with officials opening the gate and standing outside as Malema read the memorandum. 

Malema said: "France continues to maintain strong and intimidating military bases in almost all African counties they had colonial control over.

"African countries that were under French rule continue to pay colonial taxes and currently pay more than $500 billion to the French treasury every year.

"France must grant full independence to all African countries and allow them to determine their own currencies, monetary policies, and economic direction.

"France must also immediately remove all its military bases, which are currently stationed in Africa."

He gave the French seven days to respond - "or the EFF would outline clear and practical programmes on how to undermine and counter France's continued colonisation of the African content". 

Lechevallier refused to sign it, adding that "the French Embassy reminds that France is a reliable partner of South Africa and a friend of the South African people". 

"We fully respect the integrity, sovereignty and independence of all African nations." 

The incident occurred as the world celebrated Africa Day. 

The EFF said: "Africa Day has become yet another event, where we celebrate our identity under a cloud of conquest.

"EFF marks the 59th Anniversary of Africa Day, which observes the formation of the Organisation of African Unity [OAU] by great pan-African leaders who led the independence movement in Africa during the 1960s.

"Armed with a fervent love for Africa, its people and a commitment to the liberation of Africans from the chains of colonialism and imperialism, President Kwame Nkrumah, Emperor Haille Sellassie, President Kenneth Kaunda, President Sekou Toure, President Julius Nyerere led 25 members in charting the blueprint for a United States of Africa.

READ | Africa Day: Foreign nationals being used as scapegoats

"On that fateful occasion, President Kwame Nkrumah declared in the inaugural sitting of the OAU, in front of 31-member states in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, that 'we must unite now or perish'. I am confident that by our concerted effort and determination, we shall lay here the foundations for a continental union of African states.

"Today, 59 years since this resounding rallying call for unity in the face of imperial domination, Africa remains on its knees, fractured and at the mercy of former colonial masters and their administrators.

Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) supporters hold pl
EFF supporters hold placards as they picket outside the French Embassy in Pretoria.

"African Union is now a pale shadow of what it was formed to achieve, which was the liberation of Africans from the chains of colonialism and imperialism," read the party statement. 

According to the EFF, the French are fuelling divisions within the continent and African organisations, such as the OAU, the AU and the Southern African Development Community (SADC), have been reduced to mere spectators. 

"It [the AU] now accommodates colonialists and land thieves, such as Israel, as observers in its ranks.

"The agenda of the OAU, which sought to promise the unity and solidarity of African states, defend the sovereignty, territorial integrity and independence of Africa, aimed to end all forms of colonialism and chart a path towards economic, educational, cultural, and scientific cooperation in the continent, had dwindled into nothingness."

Despite this, though, the EFF maintains that it still believes in "the ideas of African independence, anti-imperialism, rejection of colonial debt, a united African currency, and the promotion of intra-African trade, as these are the bedrock of the future of the continent".

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