/ 12 June 2024

KHAYA KOKO: We need a Julius Malema whisperer

Cic Julius Malema Addresses The Media At Winnie Madikizela Mandela House
EFF leader Julius Malema. (Photo by Gallo Images/Sharon Seretlo)
Graphic Khaya Text 1000px

And so it happened again — for the umpteenth time.

As sure as former United States president Donald Trump needs tacky tanning beds to maintain his orange order, so did Economic Freedom Fighters leader Julius Malema contradict himself on a policy position. 

The latest about-turn follows contentious talks about the formation of a government of national unity (GNU), which the EFF equated to sharing “power with the enemy”.

This was shortly after cupcake-in-chief Cyril Ramaphosa’s 7 June announcement that the government of national unity was the ANC’s preferred governance model resulting from no party achieving an outright majority in the 29 May elections. 

Malema alluded to the Democratic Alliance (DA) as the “enemy” in his 7 June post on X when expressing his party’s distaste for sharing a government with the Smurfs, accused by the EFF of being a party “for white people”.  

The X post followed Juju’s 1 June press conference at the Electoral Commission of South Africa’s national results operating centre in Johannesburg, where the EFF leader said: “A se rena bo Mandela.” 

Loosely translated from Sepedi, Malema meant that his party was far removed from former president Nelson Mandela’s ANC leadership, which, after the 1994 national elections, ushered in a government of national unity with the Inkatha Freedom Party and the National Party (NP), paving the way for FW de Klerk to occupy one of two deputy president spots.

The Red Berets see the Smurfs as a contemporary incarnation of De Klerk’s apartheid party — even though the NP joined forces with the ANC in 2005, ironically, during a time when Malema’s blood was proudly black, green and gold. 

In an iteration of the flip-flopping he is famed for, Malema, in an interview with the BBC’s Hardtalk in May last year, had, like a cheap hype man at a Sandton nightclub, promoted the government of national unity as his party’s preferred model to fix Eskom’s load-shedding crisis. 

“We need a government of national unity constituted by all of us [representatives in parliament] who are not driven by political party interest, but the interest of South Africa to resolve this immediate crisis, which will affect all aspects of our lives,” he said. 

It begs the question, then, that if the EFF supported working with “all” parties, the DA included, to resolve the Eskom crisis, why would its leader speak of the official opposition with disdain like it was Kaizer Chiefs exactly a year later? 

There really is no compelling answer to that question, I’m afraid. 

Save to say that Malema’s GNU tailspin was part of a litany of examples of the EFF leader changing his views faster than a Nigerian man in Sunnyside, Pretoria, running in flip-flops and skinny jeans — an image that will resonate with some urban dwellers. 

You don’t believe me?

In January 2017, Malema said he was “reliably informed” that former public protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane was a “spy”, calling her “useless” and stating that the EFF’s parliamentary support for her 2016 appointment was the “worst mistake that we have ever made”.

“We are looking for some way of rescuing that [public protector] office,” he charged, adding that Mkhwebane was fetched from the “Gupta kitchen”. 

But, in September 2019, Juju changed his tune, saying Mkhwebane had to be “protected” from what he called “enemies of progress”. 

“We need to support her, particularly because if you look at the type of people who are against her, those are the enemies of progress, and we must protect her against the enemies of progress,” Malema said, alluding to Public Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan’s court battles with the former public protector. 

Four years later, in October last year, Mkhwebane joined the EFF and became its MP with no explanation from Malema on why his party recruited a “spy”. 

Or how Malema, in February 2017, called the former Western Cape judge president, John Hlope, “a rotten apple” in the judiciary that the EFF had “to remove”, but called Hlope the candidate with “the best legal brain” of the eight that were shortlisted to succeed former chief justice Mogoeng Mogoeng when nominations were released in October 2021. 

When these contradictions are pointed out, the EFF, its supporters and its leadership are quick to assert that those of us who don’t understand the about-turns are too stupid to grasp “dialectical materialism”, which is a Karl Marx concept theorising a path towards a socialist nirvana. 

Essentially, the Marxist concept emphasises that its proponents should always be aware of changes in material conditions.

This is why I believe the EFF needs to get a Julius Malema whisperer, a skilled person who will interpret the EFF leader’s views so that, when he inevitably flips opinions quicker than two shakes of a dog’s tail, it can be explained what materially changed for him to hold a different view — instead of the guesswork the public is asked to participate in.