Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) leader Julius Malema has shown his political nous by accepting the results of this year’s elections, making a U-turn on the ominous promises he made ahead of the polls.
“We accept defeat and life goes on,” said Malema who even went as far as congratulating the ANC, Democratic Alliance (DA) and other parties on their victories.
With more than 6% under his belt, Malema has decided to accept the Independent Electoral Commission’s (IEC) results, ensuring his party’s legitimacy.
It is good news for the IEC who had to stave off a court challenge by the EFF and four other parties to have commission chair Pansy Tlakula removed after her involvement in a botched leasing deal.
“You cannot separate the issues of maladministration and corruption on the [acquisition] of the property from having such acts happening during the elections,” Malema said in April, adding that her stepping down was “in the interest of the unity of this country, to avoid the possibility of civil war and disputed election results.”
But now Malema has done a u-turn, assuring “we don’t want civil war”.
“Whatever shenanigans they did, we accept. It’s part of the school fees you pay,” said Malema, referencing election irregularities by other parties. “We don’t want civil war, we don’t want this country in ashes. We love this country of Nelson Mandela.”
Hedging its bets
Analysts at the time told the Mail & Guardian the party was likely hedging its bets should its support be far less than expected for the “government-in-waiting” as Malema called his eight-month-old EFF.
But with around 6% of the national vote, Malema seems to have heeded advice to accept results despite discrepancies in counting that his party was previously worried about as well as his party’s issues with the IEC beforehand on various issues, including the funding of parties.
Malema was euphoric at the press conference. “They said it would be cold outside the ANC but it’s very, very warm. How can you be cold when you are surrounded by one million people? They are our shield.”
This means the EFF has to live with its suspicions on the counting process in Gauteng.
The EFF have called the delay in Gauteng’s counting suspicious, particularly as it happened in the early hours of Friday morning when the ANC’s support had dipped to below 50%, according to the EFF.
But now the party is choosing to live with the issues. “In the whole world there are no perfect elections,” said Malema at a press conference at the IEC results centre in Pretoria on Saturday. “We have received complaints from people on the ground but it’s very important to leave those behind and move forward.”
Malema took the opportunity to speak to ongoing protests in Alexander township, north of Johannesburg.
“People of Alexandra, [protest] in a dignified manner, don’t put South Africa in ashes because of your anger,” said Malema. “This is not the beginning, it is the end. We are all winners, everyone has won here. Let us not be bad losers … and allow the ANC to rule for the next five years.”
The party’s acceptance of results is a boon for the IEC. Political analyst Steven Friedman previously told the M&G that it was critical for an election that the losers accept results.
A number of small parties and independent observers who noted serious discrepancies in the counting will now lose the voice of the EFF.
The EFF was the most powerful party challenging results earlier this week when certain discrepancies emerged.
Now the party is painting itself as a quality presence in the political space for the next five years, saying it won’t oppose for the sake of opposing.
Malema said if the DA were to cast a vote of no confidence against President Jacob Zuma, the EFF would join them and, likewise, if the ANC were to take up the cause of expropriation of land without compensation in Parliament.
But the party tried to make it clear that they were still a party of the people. Malema swore to challenge the attire regulations in parliament so they could wear their trademark red overalls. “We are there to work … we don’t want to be like some stupid people who hide behind a tie.”
Close to the ground
The party also swore to stay close to the ground, saying some people on its parliamentary list may choose to not go to the legislature but instead be involved in ground work.
“You will see us on the ground. We will not be enjoying Cape Town and staying there while our people are struggling on the ground,” he said.
And, in one of the biggest surprises of the conference, Malema said his position in Parliament wasn’t guaranteed – because of the party’s own choice and not because of his court challenges.
He said the party aimed to have its first national conference and elections in December 2014. It is here that they may make a decision that the party president work full-time for the party. “I will accept and then come serve my organisation full-time in Braamfontein,” said Malema.