Malema sees himself as Number Two
Former ANC Youth League president Julius Malema is targeting at least five million voters in next year's general election, effectively hoping to unseat the Democratic Alliance as the official opposition party.
Malema's yet-to-be-formed political party is being punted as one that will radicalise the fight for economic freedom if it takes on the ANC at the polls.
Malema announced earlier this week that he was consulting his supporters on the formation of the poli-tical movement, which, he said, would be driven by what he termed the "economic freedom fighters" (EFF).
However, this appeared to be a mere formality as 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 nongovernmental 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 Cope, 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.
Malema drew crowds when he spoke to mineworkers in the aftermath of Marikana last year, mainly in the Rustenburg area.
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 StatsSA'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".