Sport and Recreation Minister Fikile Mbalula says expelled ANC Youth League leader Julius Malema's plan to start a new party is "political suicide".
"As a cadre, being trained by the ANC, forming a political party out of the ANC is political suicide. It is out of anger and not necessity," Mbalula told the Sunday Independent.
"Being disgruntled about individuals in the ANC cannot lead to the formation of a political party."
This week, Malema announced that he would establish a new political platform—the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF).
Beeld newspaper reported that Malema sent out an email announcing his plans. In the email he apparently urged those interested in his venture to contact him via email or social networks. He also asked for proposals on how to collect money.
Mbalula told the Sunday Independent he had "no intention of joining anything".
Calling Malema's plans "political adventurism" Mbalula, himself a former ANC Youth League leader, said he was friends with Malema.
"And I will remind him that, friendship aside, it is my duty to defend the ANC."
Mbalula said he did not believe in "veering" away from the ANC.
"If it means I part ways with Julius on this, so be it."
Mbalula said Malema needed to be more patient: "His political decision is sad. Julius can bounce back as a solid leader, only if he can remain patient."
Limpopo premier Cassel Mathale, previously seen as a close Malema ally, told the newspaper that Malema's decision was unfortunate.
"We are going to be on the opposing side of the fence. It's unfortunate."
Meanwhile, Limpopo human settlements minister Clifford Motsepe, once also seen as a Malema ally, told the newspaper they could still be friends but he would not support his political ambitions.
"I am going to attend branch general meetings with my grandchildren and the day I die my coffin will be draped in black, green and yellow colours," Motsepe said.
In a press statement this week, Malema said the ANC could never provide a sustainable solution to the country's developmental problems and condemned both the alliance partners and the opposition parties as ineffectual.
He called on South Africans to "stand up and be counted" and announced his intention to hold consultative forums and platforms across the country to discuss "what is to be done".
"[The] Economic Freedom Fighters believe that South Africans should stand up and be counted. As economic Freedom Fighters. We call on all South Africans committed to real change to submit the names, contact details and current political affiliation to the [email protected]," Malema said in the statement.
The man, who once claimed to be "prepared to die for [Jacob Zuma] ... prepared to take up arms and kill for Zuma", described the ANC as a party "committed to a right-wing, neo-liberal and capitalist agenda which has kept [the] majority of our people on the margins of South Africa's economy".
A day after the majority of the ANC Youth League's structures were disbanded by a national task team set up to reorganise the youth wing, Malema described the league as a "lap dog" sent to repeat what the ANC leadership has said.
In an apparent swipe at former youth league alumnis Fikile Mbalula and Malusi Gigaba, Malema derided "puppet youth league leaders", who had been rewarded with Cabinet posts and other perks.
Perhaps pre-empting further legal action against him, Malema also warned that "victimisation of those who are suspected of forming political alternatives in the ANC will increase with threats of arrests and possible manipulation of the justice system until imprisonment".
Malema has already set the agenda for the nature of the consultations, which would be focused on what he calls "base principles", including:
- the expropriation of land without compensation;
- the nationalisation of mines, banks, and other strategic sectors of the economy;
- building state and government capacity, which will lead to the abolishment of tenders;
- free quality education, healthcare, houses, and sanitation;
- massive protected industrial development to create millions of sustainable jobs;
- massive development of the African economy and advocating for a move from reconciliation to justice; and
- open, accountable government and society without fear of victimisation by state police.
These principles largely mirror the principles of the youth league in the latter years of Malema's leadership. He called on those who uphold these principles to make submissions on what should be done via email, Facebook or Twitter.
'Neglecting the struggle
Malema is targeting at least five-million voters in next year's general election, hoping to unseat the Democratic Alliance as the official opposition party.
Former youth league spokesperson Floyd Shivambu told the Mail & Guardian this week that starting a political party was a done deal. He said the plan had been on the table for some time, "particularly with calls from comrades who say we can't neglect the struggle for economic freedom".
Malema and Shivambu were among the youth league leadership who gave prominence to a debate about the nationalisation of mines and other key sectors of the economy.
"We believed that we could have that [successfully fighting for radical economic transformation] happening in the ANC or non-governmental organisations [NGOs] and any other structures that would contest around those demands," Shivambu said. "But then we decided to consult broadly and the dominant view is that we should start a political party."
Although it was unprecedented for any new political party to aim for almost half of the votes the ANC received in the previous elections (11.6-million in 2009), Shivambu said the EFF had undertaken extensive research that had shown it was possible. "There are a huge number of disgruntled people who are not going to vote; they're registered but they're not voting. That's who we are targeting."
Among the opposition parties, the DA garnered 2.9-million votes in the previous election and the Congress of the People, formed six months before the election, scored 1.3-million votes.
Malema's home province, Limpopo, and North West have emerged as two key provinces for the EFF. Shivambu said the EFF had received positive responses from several other provinces, including KwaZulu-Natal.
Shivambu said that by Wednesday, the EFF had received 2 800 responses from supporters who had also offered to be the party's volunteers.
"We will publish the names next week. Those who'll say we included them by mistake must tell us and we will remove their names. We want courageous people."
Shivambu said 55% of the respondents were currently ANC members. "The rest are people who say we had sympathy for the ANC and now that there is a plan for a new party we are prepared to join."
He said the new party would try to attract unions—independent and those affiliated to the ANC's ally, the trade union federation Cosatu - as well as NGOs and any organisations that share the principles of radical economic transformation.
Political analyst Tinyiko Maluleke said there was space for a youth-driven political party to prioritise young people's struggles. "They're not finding jobs; some are qualified but are still unemployed, while some are not even getting opportunities to study and develop themselves."
The unemployment rate in South Africa reached 25.2% in the first quarter of this year, according to Statistics South Africa. Young people make up 70% of that figure.
Maluleke said the case for a youth-driven party was justified by the average age of the country's population—25—and that slightly more than a third of the population was under the age of 15, according to Census 2011.
According to Stats SA's 2012 mid-year population estimate, almost six-million citizens will become eligible to vote for the first time next year.
Shivambu said the EFF did not want to "name drop" but claimed the new party had already attracted prominent people. "We won't make their names public – they will make the announcement themselves when the time is right."
"The target is not big guns, anyway, the focus is on ordinary people on the ground."
He would also not say how the party would be funded or who its leader would be. "We're waiting for a fundraising strategy but we don't want foreign money. We think people should decide where money should come from."
He said those attending a consultative meeting, scheduled for next week in Johannesburg, would decide who would lead the party.
Shivambu said no alliances had been formed with other African countries but the EFF was looking to some such as Zimbabwe, Ghana and Uganda, "who are pushing a progressive agenda".
Malema owed the taxman R16-million and a number of his assets have been seized to pay off his debt. His Schuilkraal farm was auctioned for R2.5-million on Monday. Last month his incomplete Sandown mansion was auctioned for R5.9-million.
Malema also faces charges of fraud and corruption related to tenders in Limpopo. – Additional reporting by Sapa