Nene urged to disown Zuma critics
The EFF’s Julius Malema tells S’thembile Cele and Ferial Haffajee that he is demanding that the president do far more than #PayBackTheMoney
Long after his firing from Cabinet as finance minister, the Nhlanhla Nene saga refuses to go away. This week opposition parties will use his axing to attack Zuma.
But now allies of the president want Nene to explicitly distance himself from those using his name to mount a campaign against Zuma.
The Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) are planning to turn Tuesday’s Constitutional Court hearing about President Jacob Zuma’s Nkandla renovations into a mass anti-corruption rally. Two days later, they are likely to again disrupt the president’s annual state of the nation address (Sona). City Press spoke to party leader Julius Malema at EFF headquarters in Johannesburg. Who will join you at court on Tuesday?
We’ll be bringing EFF branches and supporters. We had a lot of people confirming; no fewer than 25 000 people. But we don’t have the capacity to bring them [all], because we don’t have the money. We are challenged. So I think we will manage to bring 5 000. Is the Constitutional Court case not moot now that President Zuma has offered to pay back the money he owes?
If President Zuma wants to, he can take the settlement offer before the judges, and then we will be asked to respond and will simply say we have given him our response that we must include the following... What is ‘the following’?
We must all agree that the Public Protector’s remedial actions are legally binding on all of us; that the president breached the Constitution by failing to implement the Public Protector’s remedial actions; and that we must ensure that, in 60 days, whoever is appointed [to make the calculation of what Zuma owes for the renovations to his estate at Nkandla], should come up with the amounts of the identified security features, but they shouldn’t be limited to those. There must be other [features whose costs should be considered], which might be non-security features, like air-con, tiles, carpets... So you will ask the courts to put in place a 60-day deadline for the president to #PayBackTheMoney?
Yes. Not 90 days; he wants 90 days. We want 60 days. So the countdown would start when?
Immediately from [the date of next week’s court hearing]. Who will argue your case?
[Advocate] Wim Trengove [one of South Africa’s most highly regarded silks]. It seems as if the wind has been taken out of your sails for Parliament on Thursday because the president is going to pay back the money. Why would you still disrupt Sona?
No, no, no; the state of the nation this year was not going to be about #PayBackTheMoney. I made a point even last year that if we go to the state of the nation before the Constitutional Court resolves this matter, we won’t even speak about it, because we must respect the courts.
Our problem with Zuma now is the minister of finance. He needs to explain why he did what he did [axing Nhlanhla Nene as the minister] and [he must] apologise to the nation, because Zuma continues to justify that nonsense he did. And then every time he justifies it, we lose one or two investors out of this country because they are like: ‘This guy doesn’t see anything wrong with what he has done.’ What if he repeats a similar mistake? So what is the question likely to be on Thursday?
He needs to explain why he removed the minister of finance and must then apologise for that wrong action. What if the president says, as he has done, that it was his presidential prerogative?
There is no prerogative to [be allowed to] mess up. And there is nothing in the Constitution of South Africa which says you may not be accountable. It is your prerogative, but you have to account. Have you spoken to Nene at all?
I don’t know that chap. I have never met him in the ANC structures, I have never met him in the ANC mass meetings. Nowhere. So why are you speaking for him?
I’m not speaking for him. Nene is not our friend. Our friend is the republic of South Africa. You [the president] remove a minister. Unprovoked. Without anything that suggests there must be an intervention in Treasury, and then you make that stupid move that puts all of us into a crisis. I don’t care whether it is Nene. I don’t care whether it is [Finance Minister] Pravin [Gordhan] – you just don’t make a move like that. How big is the economic crisis?
It is huge. It is huge because look at what happens now. The rand has become weaker because the exchange rate is just not affordable. It doesn’t make business sense to continue buying things and then importing them into South Africa, and when you sell to South Africa with this new price. No one buys, because they can’t afford to. So the whole thing of an exchange rate has actually affected the whole market. Have you ever visited the Gupta family in Saxonworld and have they ever contributed to the EFF?
I have never met the Guptas. I have never asked for anything from the Guptas. They have never contributed anything to the EFF. When I was in the ANC Youth League, Zuma’s son [Duduzane Zuma] called to ask for a meeting because I had made some remarks about the Guptas. I said: ‘You must call the [then] secretary-general of the youth league, Vuyiswa Tulelo, and tell her why they want to meet us.’ Then Vuyiswa said to them: ‘You must write down why you want to meet us,’ and then we collectively met and agreed that we were not going to meet the Guptas.
The Guptas [only] came close to me through [Sports Minister Fikile] Mbalula, when they called Mbalula to tell him when he was the deputy minister of police that he was going to be appointed minister of sports. They called him to tell him that?
Ja, they called him about that and Mbalula didn’t make it a secret. We went to the national executive committee (NEC) of the ANC to fight about it. We said: ‘Why would we be called by strangers and be told what we are going to be appointed to when we have an elected leadership [to do that]?’
I remember Mbalula fought bitterly and even ended up crying in the NEC because he was emotional that now the president says we want to remove him; [that] we don’t want him and all that because we are questioning why the Guptas are interfering in the affairs of appointments by the ANC. What kind of week will this week be?
We are going to win in the Constitutional Court and there is going to be a nice surprise party for the Guptas on [Tuesday]. And in Parliament, we are going to come and challenge the president and the white shirts [the term used to describe the cops who last year disguised themselves in white shirts] are going to come in, and then we are going to start with the gymnastics. Then we are going to ultimately be defeated and taken out, but history will record that we are the only ones consistently who challenge this rot that is happening. Like Helen Suzman [the late famed parliamentarian of the Progressive Federal Party who was a lone thorn in the side of the apartheid state]. So you see yourself as a new Suzman?
No, no. [What I meant is that] alone, she could challenge the authorities. She may not have done it the way we are doing it. But she used to stand up and ‘say this is unacceptable’. So we need to be remembered like that. That when the rot was happening we stood up and said ‘not in our name’. What about the view that you are solely on an anti-Zuma campaign and have nothing else to campaign with?
But if you look at our wall there at the back [of the EFF headquarters boardroom where its campaign pillars are painted], there is nothing [about] Zuma there.
Zuma is a very clear example of corruption and, as an anticorruption and corruption-free organisation, we ought to single him out. [Some people] think he is deserving of all those things he has, particularly our black people who believe a king must be given all sorts of things. Build a house for the king, do all sorts of things for the king. But we actually come to make them aware that Zuma is not a king.
My grandmother used to believe strongly there was nothing wrong with Zuma’s house. So I said to her: ‘OK, there is no problem; the councillor here is also our king. Let’s take out money here because he is our Zuma here. Let’s take out money and build that man a proper house.’ She said: ‘Hey, hey, hey, no. Not my money, no. Not this one.’ There is nothing royal in their blood; they are not there because they are born to be there. They are elected leaders, and elected leaders must at all times be accountable. We use [the campaign to] also call out the mini Zumas: to say to them: if you continue with the way you are, you are going to be caught.
FIREBRAND EFF leader Julius Malema at the media briefing where he addressed President Jacob Zuma’s announcement that he would pay back some of the public money spent on upgrades to his Nkandla residence. He also discussed the axing of Nhlanhla Nene and the alleged corruption by the Gupta family