/ 15 March 2024

Thabo Mbeki a flip flopper over ANC campaigning, says Malema

EFF leader Julius Malema. File photo

Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) leader Julius Malema has called former president Thabo Mbeki a flip-flopper after his announcement on Wednesday that he would campaign for the ANC in the general elections, having previously signalled otherwise.

Malema was speaking to the Mail & Guardian on Friday during a visit to the party’s special operations centre for the elections.

He called out the media for not referring to Mbeki as a flip-flopper — a label that has been applied to the EFF leader because of how he constantly changes his stance on the people he backs.

After months of speculation about whether Mbeki — who has been critical of his own party in the past — would campaign for the ANC, he has now endorsed it, saying it was his “obligation” to make a contribution.

“You are not saying he [Mbeki] is a flip-flopper but if it was me who had said that because I am not your favourite, you would have called me names,” Malema said on Friday.

“The good thing is Mbeki said not long ago that he would not campaign for the ANC and today he says he is going to campaign for the ANC. What has changed in policy, in form, and in content in the ANC?

“The ANC is in a much worse situation than when he said he would not campaign for that kind of ANC. It was a factional position.”

In an interview with public broadcaster SABC on Wednesday on the sidelines of an event at the University of South Africa (Unisa), Mbeki said: “I am a member of the ANC. Of course I have got an obligation as a member of the ANC. We have to make our own contribution to engage the population.” 

In a media interview last year, Mbeki had said his answer about whether he would campaign for his party was “outstanding” because there were many things going wrong in the ANC that were not being attended to. 

More recently, he criticised the ANC and its president, Cyril Rampahosa, for failing to implement its “renewal” project.

Mbeki also refused to campaign for the party during the tenure of his successor as president, Jacob Zuma.

On Friday Malema said because Mbeki was inviting himself back to the political arena, he was forfeiting the right to be treated with deference as an elder of the country.

“We are ready for him, let him campaign for the ANC, we will campaign for the EFF and we will meet on the streets. We have a problem with these elders of the ANC who retire and still don’t want to retire.

“President Mbeki should have found himself a farm in Ngqushwa and go and stay there and only travel the continent and the world as a special envoy or as someone who is going to give a lecture in some of the big universities like he was doing at Unisa.

“President Mbeki is inviting himself back to the political field and we are going to have to respond to him.”

Malema also defended Zuma’s decision to endorse the new Umkhonto weSizwe (MK) party for the upcoming elections while insisting he is still a member of the ANC, saying Mbeki had previously done the same thing by backing the formation of the Congress of the People (Cope) by former members of the ruling party.

During his lecture at Unisa on Wednesday, Mbeki said Zuma’s MK party was led by people who had attempted to destroy state institutions. 

“What Zuma is doing, is not for the first time it has been done, President Mbeki was right behind Cope. He is not going to characterise Zuma’s support for MK as counter-revolution as if his support to Cope was revolutionary,” Malema said.

“Everybody who worked with Mbeki from Phumzile [Mlambo Ngcuka], Smuts Ngonyama, Mbhazima Shilowa, and all kinds went to join Cope. They were not going to do that without President Mbeki’s blessings and when these people wanted to join Cope, what did President Mbeki do in defence of the ANC? He kept quiet, kept a corner because he knew what he was doing.”

EFF secretary general Marshall Dlamini said the party’s election operations centre will target supporters who may need assistance with getting to voting stations on 29 May. 

He said the EFF had more than 500 000 volunteers on the ground doing election work.