Fire­brand Malema fights for land rev­o­lu­tion in S Africa

Muscat Daily - - OPINION - Michelle Gumede

The leader of South Africa’s rad­i­cal op­po­si­tion EFF party has vowed that his sup­port­ers will in­creas­ingly seize un­oc­cu­pied land to put pres­sure on the gov­ern­ment to re­dis­tribute land to black peo­ple.

Julius Malema, head of the anti-cap­i­tal­ist Eco­nomic Free­dom Fight­ers party, warned that poor, young South Africans felt aban­doned by the coun­try’s post-apartheid pol­i­tics since the end of white-mi­nor­ity rule in 1994.

Land re­form has be­come the coun­try’s fiercest bat­tle­ground ahead of elec­tions next year, when Pres­i­dent Cyril Ramaphosa will try to re­vive fad­ing sup­port for the rul­ing ANC party.

“It’s a com­pletely new gen­er­a­tion run­ning out of pa­tience,” Malema told AFP in an in­ter­view at the down­town Jo­han­nes­burg head­quar­ters of the EFF, which he founded in 2013 af­ter be­ing ejected from the ANC.

“The EFF came at the right time be­cause it was able to amass all this en­ergy into a party to ag­i­tate for eco­nomic strug­gle,” he said.

The EFF won just over eight per­cent in the 2016 lo­cal elec­tions, and hopes to make a ma­jor break­through in the 2019 gen­eral elec­tion by tap­ping into frus­tra­tion among mil­lions of young and poor South Africans.

“The EFF said to our peo­ple - the most prac­ti­cal way to get the land is to oc­cupy the un­oc­cu­pied land to put pres­sure on the state, and it has worked,” Malema said.

“Now the state and the own­ers of the land are be­gin­ning to say ‘maybe we should do some­thing’.”

Un­em­ploy­ment na­tion­wide is about 28 per cent, with youth un­em­ploy­ment top­ping 50 per cent in some ar­eas.

Malema (37) is renowned for his fiery speeches and at­tacks on whites as he builds a growing sup­port base among South Africa’s poor.

But his party’s flag­ship stance of de­mand­ing rad­i­cal land re­form has been over­shad­owed by Ramaphosa’s re­cent an­nounce­ment that the con­sti­tu­tion would be changed to ex­plic­itly al­low for the ex­pro­pri­a­tion of land with­out com­pen­sa­tion.

Shar­ing the land?

The gov­ern­ment’s pol­icy spooked for­eign in­vestors - and threat­ened to steal the EFF’s thun­der.

“Cyril says this to­day and says some­thing else to­mor­row, de­pend­ing on where he is speak­ing,” Malema said, de­scrib­ing Ramaphosa’s new land re­dis­tri­bu­tion pol­icy as ‘fake’.

“We say the same thing all the time, and they keep on chang­ing.”

“The EFF is the only rel­e­vant party in South Africa to­day - we are the most in­flu­en­tial po­lit­i­cal party through ideas.”

Ac­cord­ing to Ramaphosa, whites make up eight per cent of the South African pop­u­la­tion and pos­sess 72 per cent of farms, while blacks are 80 per cent of the pop­u­la­tion but have only four per­cent of farms.

Malema said he had led land seizures near his home in the north­east­ern city of Polok­wane, with more than 3,000 fam­i­lies set­tled on unused land whose owner lives in Canada.

“He came back and wanted to start ne­go­ti­at­ing,” Malema said, pre­dict­ing land seizures in South Africa would not be vi­o­lent - un- like in neigh­bour­ing Zim­babwe where bru­tal farm invasions wrecked the econ­omy un­der Robert Mu­gabe.

“There won’t be vi­o­lence. I think (white farm­ers) want to give up land as both black and white are talk­ing to each other about how we can re­solve the land is­sue.”

“We are go­ing to share the land, but it must first be owned by the state and re­al­lo­cated back to all of us - black and white.”

Such in­clu­sive talk may do lit­tle to calm fears among po­ten­tial in­vestors and wealthy South Africans over Malema’s am­bi­tions, and he still rel­ishes tak­ing a dig at the priv­i­leged lives that many white cit­i­zens en­joy.

He sug­gested white peo­ple could not emi­grate to Europe as they can not af­ford do­mes­tic staff abroad. “In 1994, peo­ple thought white peo­ple were go­ing to leave South Africa. They are still here. Where will they go?” he said.


South African Eco­nomic Free­dom Fight­ers op­po­si­tion party leader Julius Malema

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