/ 1 June 2024

Malema vows his EFF presidency is not under threat

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EFF leader Julius Malema gives a news conference following the South African national, provincial and regional elections results from the Results Operation Centre in Midrand, Gauteng on 1 June 2024. Photo by Delwyn Verasamy/M&G

Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) leader Julius Malema has declared that he intends to remain as party president and it should be clear to any would-be challengers that he is in charge.

Malema made his first appearance of the week at the national results centre in Midrand on Saturday. He arrived as a disappointing result in the national polls had been all but finalised, with the EFF failing to capitalise on the progress made in 2019. However, when asked by the Mail & Guardian at a media briefing whether his position as leader was in jeopardy, he stood defiant.

“If President [Jacob] Zuma can do it at 82, it means that you are going to wait for me until I’m 82 because I will be here,” he said. “I am not going anywhere, it’s not happening, I am here, I’m not going anywhere. Come to me and take chances, I’ll teach you how to live amongst people. I am in charge here, I am not here to play, that must be very clear.” 

Malema has previously signalled that he intended to leave politics when he is 55, saying he came into politics when he was nine years old and did not plan to stay forever.

His latest comments also contradict a previous vow that the EFF’s leadership would not tolerate stagnation. In April during a media engagement, Malema told journalists that his leadership would be questioned if the party did not do well in this year’s elections. 

But on Saturday, he was unequivocal that he would stay at the helm: “I am not going anywhere in terms of politics, health and in terms of age, ours is a generation’s mission. It is not popcorn that will just pop and disappear, we have staying power.”

The Red Beret leader also said the party would prefer to be in a coalition with the ANC after both parties performed poorly in the election.

“We want to work with the ANC .If there’s a party we can work with properly, it’s the ANC. ANC when compromise is not arrogant, when the ANC does not have an absolute majority and it happens that you share power with them, they never recover from losing power,” Malema said.

“If we had to go to the next (local government) elections in the next two years, the ANC is sitting at 40% now, for sure they would come back with 15%. After losing elections, they do not make any effort to change any attitude. Once they say the ANC has lost, you must know they are going to lose forever and that is why we prefer them.”