By Prince Kurupati
Julius Malema was re-elected unopposed as the leader of the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) during the party’s second elective conference held on December 14 2019.
Malema’s reelection means that he will head the EFF for a second five-year term. This subsequently means that he will be able to challenge for the presidency in South Africa’s next general election. The elective conference which was held at the Nasrec Expo Centre in Johannesburg also saw significant changes being effected within the EFF’s top six.
Malema founded the EFF in 2013 after his ouster from the ruling African National Congress (ANC).
During his time as the leader of the EFF, Malema has managed to make the party a force to reckon with within the South African political sphere. The party’s support base significantly increased over the past five years attracting mostly the urban poor especially the youths. This resulted in the party performing superbly in the 2019 general election where it grossed 10.7 percent of the vote, up from 6.3 percent during the previous election. The increase in support meant that the party now has 44 parliamentarians and has cemented its spot as the second main opposition party.
EFF’s growth thereby largely dissuaded many potential rivals from contesting the position of the leader of the party. Some quarters, however, attribute the lack of contesters for the position of the leader of the party down to Malema’s behaviour and personality rather than his impressive work. They argue that Malema has strategically surrounded himself with ‘yes men’, individuals who do not challenge his authority.
Speaking after his reelection, Malema denied the claims stating that anyone is free to contest him and if no one is willing to do so, he sees no problem in him being unopposed. “My simple thing of being elected and re-elected unopposed every time is very simple: I work very hard. I do not take anything for granted. I pay attention to the smallest detail.” He went further stating “I am not a dictator. I am a hard worker. I come from nothing, born from a domestic worker who suffered from epilepsy, and I worked my way up here single-handedly, knowing where I come from. So I do not care who thinks what about me.”
In preparation for his next term, Malema said that he will continue with the work that he has been doing but will aim to improve. As his main priority, Malema said that he will preach discipline in the party. “It is discipline that will make the EFF a viable alternative for the hopeless masses of our people. An alternative that will maintain its protest character while fighting battles within the walls of parliament.”
To the president, Malema said that the EFF will continue its fight against white monopoly capital and state capture. “Ramaphosa, I want to tell you now that…you are not our friend because you want to sell the assets of our people. And if you want to sell our assets to the Ruperts and the Oppenheimers, we will defend our assets with everything, including our bodies. We will occupy the picket lines in defence of our properties.”
While the elective conference generally went on smoothly, there were a couple of rather interesting incidents. On the second day of the conference, dozens of delegates randomly burst into song, ran up to the stage where Malema was speaking from the podium and knelt before him. While kneeling, the delegates started singing a praising Sesotho song which loosely translates to “Julius Malema, there is no-one like you.” Malema had no kind words for the delegates as he immediately slammed them saying that he did not ask anyone to kneel in front of him. Later on, during a plenary session of the party’s conference, Malema also took time to discourage anyone from kneeling before him. “I never asked you to kneel before me. Don’t kneel before me. I don’t want that,”
There is another incident which also occurred when some female delegates clashed with the Defenders of the Revolution, EFF’s security detail. Some of the female delegates were pepper-sprayed and accused the Defenders of the Revolution of having a tendency of using force against women. Responding on the incident, Malema denied that the incident took place saying no such treatment of women is allowed in the EFF. To him, the incident was all part of fabrications by the media.
With Malema at the helm for the next five years, the future of the EFF certainly looks bright thanks to Malema’s anti-capitalist and anti-white rhetoric which resonates well with the poor black majority. Over 20 years since the fall of Apartheid, the country’s black majority still lives in dire conditions. Speaking to the 4000 delegates that attended the conference, Malema said “The scars of colonialism and apartheid are still there. The failure to change the property structures in our economy and return the land to our people has resulted in our people having political rights, but no economic freedom.” The onus, therefore, is on the EFF to ‘represent the poor and oppressed’.
The EFF top six is now as follows:
- Julius Malema is the Commander in Chief. He was reelected.
- Floyd Shivambu is the Deputy President. He was reelected.
- Veronica Mente is the National Chairperson. She replaces Adv. Dali Mpofu.
- Marshall Dhlamini is the Secretary-General. He replaces Godrich Gardee.
- Poppy Raeside Mailola is the Deputy Secretary-General. She replaces Hlengiwe Mkhalipi.
- Umpile Maotwe is the Treasurer General. She replaces Leigh-Ann Mathys.
A new central command team was also elected at the conference.