Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) MP Andile Mngxitama – who is identified with the Fanonist wing of the party and has previously clashed with party leader Julius Malema – was attacked by the commander in chief’s loyalists as he attempted to address a press conference at noon on Thursday.
There were more “fighters” than journalists in the conference room at the Southern Sun Hotel in Cape Town. When Mngxitama arrived, no one seemed to know why he had called the conference. At his side was fellow EFF MP Khanyisile Litchfield-Tshabalala.
Then Bernard Joseph, the EFF’s Western Cape chairperson, stood up.
“This type of thing will create a same situation of Cope [the Congress of the People],” he said. “It is causing division. We will not allow this press briefing to continue.”
Then pandemonium erupted.
Chants of “Sit down Joseph!” filled the room, countered by shouts in praise of Malema.
Moments later, the pushing and shoving started. EFF supporters who were “protecting their movement” stripped Mngxitama of his EFF T-shirt.
“You are speaking without a mandate. Fuck off!” said a “fighter”.
A man from hotel security rushed in and escorted Mngxitama and those protecting him out through a side door.
The “fighters” pursued him and Litchfield-Tshabalala, who were eventually bundled into a waiting car on Strand Street.
“This thuggish behaviour is deep-rooted in our organisation,” Mngxitama said before speeding off.
He also vowed to continue his address to the media later on.
So what was his message?
Mngxitama said Malema and his deputy Floyd Shivambu were negotiating with the ANC to have seven EFF members, including himself, suspended from Parliament.
Both he and Litchfield-Tshabalala said they would not attend the State of the Nation address as they feared for their safety.
Malema seemed unfazed by the events. “I don’t know what happened there – we are preparing to make [President Jacob] Zuma pay back the money,” he said by phone ahead of Thursday night’s State of the Nation address.
It seems that the EFF will deal with their rebels another day. Two MPs short would not stop their plans to make life difficult for the president.