- The EFF will celebrate its fifth anniversary this weekend in East London, Eastern Cape
- EFF leader Julius Malema has transformed himself from a staunch ANC supporter and one-time Youth League leader to one of the ruling party’s harshest critics
- Malema was instrumental in the downfall of Thabo Mbeki and the subsequent rise of Jacob Zuma
The Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) is getting ready to celebrate its fifth anniversary and will do so at an event in the traditional heartland of the African National Congress (ANC) the Eastern Cape.
The EFF has reached its fifth ‘birthday’ thanks in no small part to its firebrand leader Julius Malema. He has been at the helm of the party since its founding and has led the EFF to become the third largest party in Parliament.
Malema has proven himself to be politically astute and has emerged as one of the leading forces of change in the country. He has also become one of the harshest critics of the ANC, a party he was once tipped to lead.
Malema is a controversial figure who draws admiration and exasperation from all quarters of South African society. Briefly.co.za takes a look at ‘Juju’s’ journey from ANC Youth League president to EFF leader and ANC-basher.
Juju was born in Seshego, Limpopo in 1981 and became politically active at a relatively young age. He joined a structure of the ANC at the age of nine and helped the party remove apartheid-era posters outside of local police stations.
Malema was elected to lead the ANC Youth League (ANCYL) Seshego branch in 1995. He was elected as the national chairperson of the Congress of South African Students (COSAS) in 2001.
The ANCYL years
Malema quickly rose through the political ranks within the ANC and in particular within the ANCYL and started to align himself with the then deputy president of the ANC Jacob Zuma.
Malema was elected as president of the ANCYL at its national conference in Bloemfontein in the first half of 2008. His election caused a certain amount of factionalism to appear in the league. Those opposing Malema felt he was too militant and favoured Saki Mofokeng who also supported Zuma but was seen as more articulate than Malema.
Later in 2008, Malema shot into the national consciousness when he said the ANCYL would take up arms if fraud charges against Jacob Zuma were not dropped by the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA). Malema famously said: “We are prepared to die for Zuma, and we are prepared to kill for Zuma.”
Malema was instrumental in the downfall of then-president Thabo Mbeki at the ANC’s 52nd National Elective Conference in Polokwane. Zuma was duly elected as the ANC’s president. Malema has since apologised to Mbeki for the role he played during the controversial conference which also led to a split in the party and the establishment of The Congress of the People (Cope) party.
2010 was not a great year for Malema. He was convicted of hate speech in March of 2010 for the disparaging comments he made about a woman who accused Zuma of sexually assaulting her.
Zuma himself publicly admonished Malema for interfering in his efforts to mediate in the Zimbabwean election saga. Malema had praised Robert Mugabe and been less than flattering in his opinions about Morgan Tsvangirai.
Malema also made international headlines in 2010 when he famously expelled a BBC journalist from a press conference. This action coupled with earlier transgressions ultimately led to Malema facing a disciplinary hearing. As part of the plea agreement, Malema apologised for his public behaviour.
Malema remained in the public spotlight in 2011 and gained huge support from within the ANCYL for his populist views. His ideas of nationalising mines and banks and expropriating white-owned land without compensation became popular among the disillusioned youth and masses.
Suspension and expulsion from the ANC
Malema and the now deputy leader of the EFF Floyd Shivambu were officially suspended from the ANC on 16 August 2011. According to sahistory.org.za the charges included bringing the organisation into disrepute and causing divisions within the party.
Malema had earlier called for the government of Botswana to be overthrown and had started to criticize Zuma’s leadership.
Malema was eventually found guilty on two charges and suspended from the ANC for five years. He appealed the decisions but was sensationally expelled from the ANC in February 2012 because of his behaviour during the appeals process.
Founding of the EFF
In July 2013 Malema once again defied his naysayers when he and Floyd Shivambu launched the Economic Freedom Fighters. Many analysts had thought Malema’s political career would come to a screeching halt after he was expelled from the ANC.
The EFF’s core and non-negotiable founding principles include land expropriation without compensation, nationalising mines and banks and ensuring the government enacts policies which will benefit the majority.
Malema’s confidence as a politician was boosted when Parliament voted to adopt a policy which could lead to Constitutional amendments to allow for land expropriation without compensation. Malema views this as a clear victory for the EFF and even said the EFF was running the country from behind the scenes because the ANC had lost its way.
Malema continues to be a staunch critic of former president Jacob Zuma and recently called for the state to confiscate Zuma’s Nkandla home and convert the property into a college to benefit the people of the country.
Malema will undoubtedly continue to lead the EFF in his trademark fiery style and is likely to ramp up attacks on the ANC-led government as the country prepares to vote in the general election in 2019.
The results of those elections will be a true indication of whether the EFF has reached its zenith or whether the party and Malema are still gaining in true and measurable popularity among the electorate.
Love him or hate him there can be no doubt that Julius Malema has played a critical role in South African politics and has at times provided the country with some much-needed comedic relief from the serious business of politics.
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