/ 17 May 2024

Give us land, we will vote for you, Phoenix residents tell Malema

Gettyimages 1996856984 594x594
Julius Malema, leader of the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF), during the party's manifesto launch in Durban, South Africa, on Saturday, Feb. 10, 2024. Photo: Leon Sadiki/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) leader Julius Malema received a nod to govern from people who congregated at a community meeting in Phoenix, north-west of eThekwini, on Thursday evening. 

During the meeting, at least five people complained about poor service delivery, accusing the Democratic Alliance (DA) of having failed to help them. 

Some meeting attendants also asked the EFF to help them get sectional title deeds for their properties, claiming that one individual allegedly associated with the ANC controlled more than half of the land in Phoenix. 

The first speaker said residents were dealing with a water crisis, with residents experiencing cuts to supply every single day. She said attempts had been made to get in touch with the DA councillor who had either blocked calls from Phoenix residents or left their calls unanswered. 

“The hope that we have in the EFF is that we will see change take place,” the woman said, adding that mothers in the area were evicted from their homes daily by a “person who owns 70% of land”.

“The cry is that the people of Phoenix need their title deeds and I’m sure everyone in this room is going to say that we need it immediately. We know the EFF believes in the land. We know and we believe that our commander-in-chief [Malema] can commit to giving us that tonight,” she said. 

The residents complained of a health crisis in the area, with a shortage of healthcare workers and clinics. 

A black man said there was a generalisation that the entire Indian community in Phoenix had participated in the massacre of black people during the unrest that rocked the area in July 2021. 

Some 36 people were reported to have been killed in Phoenix during the unrest, most of them black people who were allegedly racially targeted by some residents. During an inquiry by the South African Human Rights Commission into the unrest, witnesses said some victims had been murdered by Indian residents who turned to vigilantism as the township burnt.

At Thursday’s EFF meeting, the black man reiterated the claims of the previous speaker who had complained about the unnamed individual who allegedly owned a lot of land and was forcing people to pay rent. The residents claimed this was facilitated by the ANC and urged Malema not to make them empty promises but to give them land. 

Marvin Governder, of the Phoenix Tenants and Residents Association, said a report by the Special Investigating Unit had shown that the government was refusing to release the names of the corrupt individuals who had stolen land. 

Malema said the EFF would fight for the people of Phoenix, adding that the party was no longer in a coalition with the ANC in the eThekwini municipality. He criticised the government for failing to employ doctors, saying there must be a programme for those studying medicine to be linked to communities so that they could easily be placed after graduating.

“We are supposed to have a level of health care where we prevent, where we do early detection where we also educate our people on how to avoid diseases but because of being driven by profit-making in South Africa, they don’t give you primary healthcare so that you can become seriously sick and they admit you to their hospital and they milk you. That is why they say a cured patient is a lost customer,” he said. 

Malema added that  the EFF wanted a one-tier health system owned by the government, saying this would ensure that health facilities functioned for everyone. 

“Health is like education, they are not about profit-making,” he said. 

Malema was speaking a day after President Cyril Ramaphosa signed the controversial National Health Insurance (NHI) Bill into law. The EFF leader said the law in its current form would not rid the country of the private health sector, and that the government was outsourcing its responsibility.  

“There are going to be a lot of mushrooming, fraudulent health practices which are going to make abnormal claims with non-existent patients because the government is going to pay and it is them who are going to benefit from that corruption,” he said. 

Malema said the DA was a party for white people, harking back to the infamous election posters it had hung on the streets of Phoenix after the 2021 unrest as an attempt to divide black and Indian people. 

The DA was pilloried by some when it put up the posters that read: “The ANC called you racists” and “The DA calls you heroes”. 

On Thursday, Malema said the Phoenix killings were not committed by the Indian community en masse, but rather by criminals who must be prosecuted. 

“We have never in the EFF characterised the Phoenix Indians as criminals, as people who committed the massacre. We knew these are isolated individuals. If you had serious law enforcement they could have caught them,” Malema said.