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CityPress - - News - S’THEM­BILE CELE sthem­bile.cele@city­press.co.za

t is a warm Tues­day af­ter­noon when crowds gather on a dusty field in the seem­ingly for­got­ten min­ing com­mu­nity of Boitekong in Rusten­burg.

Around a tent, a man clad in red Eco­nomic Free­dom Fight­ers (EFF) re­galia is shout­ing into a mi­cro­phone: “Shake your bod­ies and I will give you this very nice shirt.”

The crowd re­mains un­moved, wait­ing only for the ar­rival of party leader Julius Malema.

Thirty min­utes af­ter the com­mu­nity meet­ing is sched­uled to start, the gath­er­ing is big­ger, the peo­ple’s ex­cite­ment build­ing, the mes­sianic rev­er­ence char­ac­ter­is­ing Malema’s fans over the past two years plainly ev­i­dent.

The min­ing com­mu­nity has gath­ered to air griev­ances be­fore the man who has promised to lead them to eco­nomic free­dom.

When Malema’s con­voy – a Mercedes-Benz C200, a Mercedes-Benz Viano and the in­fa­mous Golf GTI – come speed­ing into the venue 55 min­utes late, the crowd awak­ens in deaf­en­ing cheers and ap­plause. And though he warns them he is not the Holy Spirit and will not pro­vide so­lu­tions to all their prob­lems, it ap­pears to fall on deaf ears.

The North West town, which in essence sits on a dump sur­rounded by streets lit­tered with rub­bish, is the kind of en­vi­ron­ment the EFF has adopted in its two-year ex­is­tence. It has sought out places where hope has died, the peo­ple seem­ingly be­trayed by democ­racy, and has taken its gospel of eman­ci­pa­tion there.

While the pop­ulist nar­ra­tive has won hearts on the ground, it has been a dra­matic two years within the party. Its woes started at its na­tional con­fer­ence in De­cem­ber, where al­le­ga­tions were made that Malema was in­struct­ing del­e­gates on how to vote.

There, dis­cord was sown, and even­tu­ally that led to four se­nior mem­bers go­ing their own way, start­ing a cam­paign to “save the soul of the EFF”.

Khanyisile Litch­field-Tsha­bal­ala, Mpho Ra­makatsa and Andile Mngxi­tama – who were all mem­bers of Par­lia­ment – were later ex­pelled from the party for sow­ing di­vi­sion. Their break­away for­ma­tion strug­gled to get any cred­i­ble sup­port be­fore it ran out of steam al­to­gether.

The fi­nal mem­ber of the “rebel MPs” – as they were dubbed by the media – Lucky Twala, was given a more le­nient sen­tence af­ter he made an ef­fort to en­gage with the dis­ci­plinary pro­ce­dures of the party.

But now, at Boitekong, el­derly peo­ple are given a chance to speak. They com­plain about a leaky sewage sys­tem.

It flows into their homes and makes their chil­dren sick. They worry about ac­cess to wa­ter and cor­rup­tion in the RDP hous­ing sys­tem. They have been wait­ing for years to get RDP houses, they say, but still they wait.

Those who have been frus­trated enough to go to the mu­nic­i­pal­ity have re­ceived no help at all. And it has been that way for many years, they say.

Malema tells the peo­ple gath­ered to see him – ei­ther out of loy­alty or cu­rios­ity – that he has come to them not to cam­paign for votes but to hear their griev­ances and take them to Par­lia­ment, where their votes have placed him.

“Malema, please my pres­i­dent. Please may I ask about those peo­ple who were killed like dogs at Marikana. What has be­come of their story?

“When I watch TV I see noth­ing be­ing said about Marikana. It up­sets me be­cause I am a par­ent. Malema, I am beg­ging you to speak about peo­ple’s chil­dren who died there at Marikana. Do some­thing,” pleads a woman, who iden­ti­fies her­self as Thoko.

The is­sue of Marikana is one that has been adopted by the party. But the cam­paign that has mainly come to char­ac­terise the EFF is “Pay back the money”.

The party, in essence, shut Par­lia­ment down with its deaf­en­ing calls for Pres­i­dent Ja­cob Zuma to pay back the money used to build his Nkandla homestead.

On ev­ery oc­ca­sion, the chant has been on the EFF’s lips and it has re­peat­edly brought Par­lia­ment to a stand­still.

Malema tells the gath­er­ing the party has been thrown out of Par­lia­ment be­cause it has been fear­less in speak­ing the truth.

ROUS­ING RALLY

PHOTOS: LEON SADIKI

MEN OF THE MO­MENT Julius Malema (left) and Floyd Shivambu dur­ing the Eco­nomic Free­dom Fight­ers’ an­niver­sary cel­e­bra­tions

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