EFF leader Julius Malema has said sorry for once backing President Jacob Zuma - who he described as a singer who was neither a thinker nor reader.
Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) leader Julius Malema on Sunday urged all those who attended the launch of the party in Marikana to register to vote as it was the only punishment that could be given to those who killed striking Lonmin workers on August 16 2012.
"Your vote will save lives," Malema said in reference to the Marikana massacre. "If you don't vote, those who are registered will and will put them [the ANC government] back into power."
Pointing to Lonmin mineworker and EFF member Xolani Nzuza, Malema said, "He [Nzuza] didn't know that a year later, he would be standing on a podium saying 'we are with you because you were with us in our dark days when our president wasn't there.'"
Malema said there was no difference between the Marikana massacre and Sharpeville and that there was no difference between "apartheid murderers and Zuma murderers".
In a wide-ranging speech in which he promised change to workers in different sectors of the South African economy, Malema apologised for once backing Zuma, saying he had given the country mediocrity by promoting a singer who was neither a thinker nor a reader.
He urged all the supporters of his party to go to the koppie to pay homage to the slain striking mineworkers.
Warning against the IEC
The only other political leader to speak at the event was the United Democratic Movement's Bantu Holomisa, who welcomed Malema into the realm of opposition politics saying that they should prepare to go to war with an unscrupulous Independent Electoral Committee that had been subsumed by the ruling party and could be complicit in voting rigging in next years elections.
Malema, who took to the podium at about 1pm, arrived in a motorcade flanked by racing bikes and Harley Davidsons.
Meanwhile, supporters who arrived in some of the more than 50 busses earlier on Sunday, spilled out in tightly knit singing formations, not unlike mineworkers during the Marikana commemorations held in the same location on August 16.
Unlike August 16, when the open field to the east of the koppie was a sea of yellow National Council of Trade Unions and green Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union T-shirts, EFF supports came in all manner of party colours, from red combat caps to berets and overalls.
In a sense, it was at the koppie where Malema launched his political comeback, having been expelled by the ANC in April 2012, a few months before the Marikana massacre happened. By August 18 of the same year Malema was at the koppie exhorting workers to “never retreat, even in the face of death”.
On September 17, a month after the Marikana massacre, Malema was prevented from speaking to workers at the Wonderkop stadium as they gathered to hear about the progress of the wage negotiation. In later speeches, Malema claimed that the police escort that drove him out of Marikana featured a helicopter that followed him “all the way to Pretoria”.
He was later threatened with sedition charges.