Malema: Whites welcome to help EFF redistribute

New Economic Freedom Fighter 'commander-in-chief' Julius Malema. (AFP)

New Economic Freedom Fighter 'commander-in-chief' Julius Malema. (AFP)

A slightly more sober Julius Malema addressed journalists on Thursday in Braamfontein at the unveiling of the leaders of his new political platform. He seemed a more conciliatory version of the inflammatory leader, who made his name as a firebrand ANC Youth League leader.

"Fellow white South Africans, if you agree with us you are more than welcome to join us in the redistribution of land and wealth in South Africa,” he said. “This land is too big.
There is nobody who will be driven to the sea. We will share, black and white. But failure to share means you will be forced to share.

"We all belong here, but we all have to show proof that we belong here. Black people have nothing to show. Therefore we must give them something to show so they can say proudly: this is our land, this is our country."

At the beginning of the briefing, Malema was calm and measured, and at pains to point out that the briefing had started on time.

After outlining a radical policy proposal that he described as “anti-capitalist”, Malema was careful not to get personal, a hallmark of his political rhetoric previously. Instead he said of capitalists: "We do not disrespect them, we know they are very strong, but equally they must know that what is coming their way is going to have a serious impact."

But he hasn’t lost his touch for political theatre, as he entered the room flanked by his fellow leaders all donning red berets as a symbol of the movement.

“We are not suffering from sleepless nights,” he said of the ANC and government’s charges. "We look fresh."

Letting rip
As the briefing wore on he become inceasingly vocal, however, and let rip about the ANC and his enmity with former ally President Jacob Zuma.

"Their programme to discredit us in society will not succeed. You can take away everything but you will never take away our will. Not even prison will take away that political will. We will fight economic freedom from the cells if needs be because we are committed to this cause."

Along with his fellow leaders he was at pains to paint the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) as a cause for and by the people. He refused to commit to contesting next year’s national elections, saying he needed a mandate from the people at the organisation’s upcoming “national assembly”.

"We were never served charges in the ANC, after leaving the ANC we were served with charges. We knew the consequences of not abandoning this cause. These things are happening exactly as we anticipated. Let them continue. They’ll take the last thing and then what? You’d never change our mind. You are suffering from a poverty of ideas."

Due to be held in the last week of July in Soweto, the “national assembly of what is to be done” will determine the organisation’s course of action.

The core tenets of the party are a “radical interpretation of the Freedom Charter”, which will include land expropriation without compensation and nationalisation of key assets such as mines.

The policies are nothing new for the controversial leader, who punted similar ideas during his ill-fated time as ANC Youth League president, before he was expelled.

The leaders of the new party were announced, with Malema dubbed "commander-in-chief" and a central command team at a national level that includes Floyd Shivambu, Sam Tshabalala, flamboyant businessman turned EFF party faithful Kenny Kunene and, with the surprise addition of acclaimed actor Fana Mokoena.

Radical economic policies
Malema spoke to a packed room of journalists at Constitutional Hill, a poignant if ironic choice for a leader who regularly called for changes that flew in the face of the Constitution. He called it a "a symbol of South Africa’s emancipation which we as EFF believe should be elevated" through radical economic policies.

He told journalists he would be happy to partner with other movements, like the Workers and Socialist Party (Wasp) if they supported EFF’s seven central tenets, including expropriation and mine nationalisation.

“We believe that capitalists are going to respond harshly. We are ready for that. We know that they are a strong, established institution.”

However, Malema still has the matter of corruption charges hanging over his head. The party’s leaders joked about the charges and dismissed the issue. He also dismissed current youth league president Ronald Lamola, saying he was "a product of negotiation".

"Lamola came into the youth league as a product of negotiation. They said he must be deputy and Kgalema Motlanthe will be president."

Malema was cast out into the cold after his expulsion from the ANC, following a bruising battle with Zuma. The league under Malema was part of the political forces that brought Zuma to power in the ANC, but the two rapidly fell out of favour.

Later investigations alleging large-scale fraud committed by Malema and his cohorts through his Ratanang Family Trust, gave Zuma’s administration ammunition to expel the controversial leader.

He was expelled after a protracted internal disciplinary process ahead of the party’s elective conference in Mangaung in December last year. Malema was part of a movement within the party to remove Zuma and put his deputy, Kgalema Motlanthe, in his place.

He founded the Economic Freedom Fighters movement after his subsequent efforts as a farmer were thwarted when his assets were seized.

Verashni Pillay

Verashni Pillay

Verashni Pillay is the former editor-in-chief of the Mail & Guardian, and inaugural editor-in chief of Huffington Post South Africa. She has worked at various periods as senior reporter covering politics and general news, specialises in mediamanagement and relishes the task of putting together the right team to create compelling and principled journalism across multiple platforms.  Read more from Verashni Pillay

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