/ 9 February 2016

The day the Economic Freedom Fighters seized Nkandla

EFF leader Julius Malema.
EFF leader Julius Malema.


When the Economic Freedom Fighters formed in mid-2013 the Nkandla saga was already well into its fourth year, and the Democratic Alliance already had under its belt one (minor) Nkandla-related court case and one (entirely unsuccessful) attempt to impeach President Jacob Zuma because of the taxpayers’ money they said had been misspent on his home.

Yet on Tuesday the johnny-come-lately party amplified a novel legal strategy – going directly to the Constitutional Court – with a showing in Johannesburg’s streets that made the DA look like distant followers regarding the controversy.

Inside the Concourt in Braamfontein various parties, including the DA, argued in the matter they had joined after the EFF had launched it.

It was still not clear whether the court would even consider the merits of the matter, or rule that it should be heard in a lower court rather than directly in the highest.

Even so the courtroom was fuller than it had ever been since its opening in 1995, with staff politely but firmly restricting entry to members of the public.

The court precinct was specifically designed without any security fencing so as to be open to pedestrians day and night, and the public is normally actively cajoled into visiting the building.

The court scrupulously gave each of the interested parties time to argue their respective cases. In the streets outside, however, other parties did not get a speaking slot. There was not a single individual in ANC regalia, nor high-ranking officials to speak to the voracious media.

A group of about 50 Congress of the People supporters in their distinctive yellow wandered about to no clear purpose or effect. A DA group about double that size milled around a trailer sound-stage, from which the party’s mayoral candidate for Tshwane, Solly Msimanga, felt it necessary to note that “none of the people who are here have been paid”.

Red deluge
And then the red wave washed over and around Constitution Hill, subsuming all before it in a fashion the DA should find chilling in a year in which post-election alliances in metros such as Nelson Mandela Bay, Tshwane and Johannesburg are a ­distinct possibility.

The EFF gathered at a site a few kilometres away and built up steam as it marched. As the first thin trickle of redshirted EFF members arrived ahead of the main front there were warm greetings for the blueshirt DA supporters: high fives, even a few hugs. A speck of red intermingled with the blue in apparent common purpose.

But the rivulet became a river, then a deluge, and the thousands jogging behind Julius Malema washed away the blue as if it had never been there. By early afternoon there was not a single DA member to be found on Constitution Hill, and police joked about being the only “blue people” left.

“We are going to be here for a very long time,” Malema told the crowd during the court’s lunch break. He was speaking about the court proceedings on the day, but may as well have been referring to the EFF’s ownership of the Nkandla saga, or even his party’s future prospects.