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South Africa’s Malema: the Man challenging the status quo of African leadership

NAIROBI, Kenya – Julius Sello Malema is South African politician who is a Member of Parliament and the leader of the Economic Freedom Fighters, a South African political party, which he founded in July 2013.

Malema previously served as President of the African National Congress Youth League from 2008 to 2012. 

Born: March 3, 1981 (age 38 years), Seshego-B, Polokwane, South Africa

Spouse: Mantwa Matlala (m. 2014)

Party: Economic Freedom Fighters

Parents: Flora Mahlodi Malema

Education: University of South Africa (2008–2010), University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg

Children: Ratanang Malema

The Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) is a South African far-left[,political party. It was founded by expelled former African National Congress Youth League (ANCYL) President Julius Malema, and his allies, in 2013. Malema is President of the EFF, heading the Central Command Team which serves as the central structure of the party.

It is currently the third-largest party in both houses of the South African Parliament.

EFF’s members of the South Africa’s Parliament

At a 26 July 2013 press briefing in Soweto, Malema announced that the new party had over 1000 members, double the 500 required for registration with the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC)..  The EFF is now registered with the IEC, after an objection to its registration by the Freedom Front Plus (FF+) was dismissed in September 2013.

High-profile members of the Central Command Team include Floyd Shivambu, Fana Mokoena and Mbuyiseni Ndlozi (National Spokesperson). Controversial businessman Kenny Kunene joined the Central Command Team in July 2013 before resigning from the Central Command Team on 20 August 2013 and from the organization on 26 August 2013. On 4 November 2013, it was announced that Dali Mpofu had left the African National Congress (ANC) after 33 years of membership and joined the EFF. Musician and actress Ntando Duma also publicly pledged allegiance to EFF in February 2019.

Malema and some senior members of the EFF lead a crusade of their supporters

According to a November 2013 Ipsos survey, the party’s supporters are younger than average, with 49% being younger than 24, overwhelmingly black (99%) and mostly male, with women representing only 33% of the support base. A disproportionate number of supporters live in Malema’s home province of Limpopo (28%), while only 1% live in KwaZulu-Natal, a more populous province.

The party was expected to make an impact in the 2014 general election, taking between 4 per cent and 8 per cent of the national vote. This was potentially enough for the party to hold the balance of power in provinces where the governing African National Congress was in danger of losing its absolute majority. In fact, the ANC retained its absolute majority, but the EFF moved into third place, surging past the shrinking Inkatha Freedom Party, with a 6.35% share of the vote to the IFP’s 2.40%

Policies: A small march by the EFF on Mandela Day (18 July) 2014 near the parliament building in Cape Town protesting in support of land reform in South Africa.

The EFF “draws inspiration from the broad Marxist–Leninist tradition and Fanonian schools of thought in their analyses of the state, imperialism, culture and class contradictions in every society”, according to one of its declarations.

It criticizes the African National Congress and their primary opposition, the Democratic Alliance, for their allegedly pro-business stances, which it claims have sold out the black people of South Africa to capitalism as cheap labor. It promises to tackle corruption, provide quality social housing, and provide free primary healthcare and education for all, as well as proposing to expropriate stolen land, nationalize the mining and banking sectors, double welfare grants and the minimum wage, and end the proposed toll system for highways.

The EFF takes significant inspiration from Thomas Sankara in terms of both style and ideology. In a May 2014 column, the prominent EFF member Jackie Shandu declared his party a “proudly Sankarist formation.”

Captain Thomas Sankara of Burkina Faso

The EFF has been vocal in its criticism of black business owners and black owners of mining companies in South Africa. In an address at the Oxford Union in November 2015, Malema spoke out against billionaire mining company owner Patrice Motsepe. Further protests in 2015, the EFF delivered demands that included the socialization of the mining sector and called for more explicit targets for the 26% BEE ownership required by law.  The EFF is a vocal proponent of expanding the role of South African state owned enterprises in the country’s economy.

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Jacob Ujamaa Nyerere

Jacob Ujamaa Nyerere is a public affairs researcher and senior investigative correspondent.

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