London calling: Who’s got Malema’s back?

Local friends and supporters of Malema have denied paying for the press tour to the UK and the person who organised the trip has been linked to Zanu-PF.

Malema has a history of cozying up to Zanu-PF. In 2010, he made a three-day visit to the country to swop notes with the Zanu-PF Youth and senior Zanu-PF officials on economic transformation. While there he also met with President Robert Mugabe and prominent businessmen. He also met the Affirmative Action Group (AAG), a radical black empowerment pressure group.

While in London, Malema has been staying at the five-star Corinthia Hotel in Whitehall Place, which charges between R7 400 and R25 250 per night.

Sports Minister and former youth league president Fikile Mbalula, who has been staying at the same hotel, vociferously denied that Malema's stay had been paid for by the sports ministry and would not comment on whether he had been in touch with Malema since arriving in London.

"If you think Malema is living in this hotel at the expense of the sports ministry, then produce evidence. What your sources told you is rubbish," he shouted at a New Age reporter.

The Friends of the Youth League have also denied paying for Malema's trip with one member claiming the group didn't know who was bankrolling the cross-continental jaunt.

Meanwhile, the ANC Youth League has chosen not to comment on the trip.

UK-based businessman Conrad Mwanza told the Sowetan that Malema's trip had not been organised by anyone in the ANC, the youth league or the Friends of the Youth League but by event companies CMG and Base Africa.

He said that Malema was popular with members of the Caribbean community in London, who appreciate his views on economic emancipation.

But Mwanza, who has been linked to Zimbabwe's ruling party Zanu-PF, later told the New Age that the trip had been organied by his own company, MCG Events Management.

He denied that he had ties to Zanu-PF, saying: "I came here from Zimbabwe but I'm not linked to Zanu-PF."

According to the New Age, Mwanza has also invited the president of the Zimbabwean empowerment group AAG to the UK in the past.

Other sources claim Mwanza is not capable of sponsoring the trip himself and have implied that he's being used as a "front" for South African backers. Malema has claimed the tour was funded by "a private South African".

The trip to the UK appears to be a make-up session following the cancellation of a tour he was set to make early in July.

While in London he met with prominent African businessmen, rubbed shoulders with Zimbabwean expats at a popular braai spot, and gave interviews to the media

The former youth league leader was meant to speak about his experiences in the ANC and his views on South Africa at an event at the Royal Over-Seas League House on Tuesday night. Tickets were sold at £20 (R260) each but only about a dozen people arrived – half of them journalists – and the event was cancelled.

Malema also gave interviews to the British media and used the opportunity to repeat his controversial views on nationalisation and to roadmap his plans for the near future.

"I'm coming back to the ANC in December once we've removed president Zuma," he said on BBC's Focus on Africa.

He also told Sky News that he believed deputy president Kgalema Motlanthe was best placed to replace Zuma at the ANC's electoral conference, and that when this happened he would return to the ANC.

In an interview with news website The South African just before he addressed a meeting of the Pan African Congress Movement at which he apparently refererd to Mugabe as source of inspiration, Malema said that he had been expelled by a faction of the ANC, not by all its members, and that he is still a member of the youth league and is "deeply involved" in preparations for the electoral conference.

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