South Africa: Who’s who in Julius Malema’s inner circle

By Carien du Plessis
Posted on Wednesday, 16 March 2022 11:50

Dive inside the broad networks of South Africa's effervescent opposition leader Julius Malema -- from his political inner circle, to his business backers, to the family connections.

From the original founding leadership of the nine-year-old Economic Freedom Fighters party, only the leader, Julius Malema, and his deputy, Floyd Shivambu, are still in place.

In a few cases there were fall-outs, but in others the leaders left to pursue other work opportunities, such as practising law (for example, Dali Mpofu who has been involved in a number of cases that touch on politics).

Malema’s words in a speech in 2011, a year before he was expelled from the ANC Youth League, still ring true for him:

“We have seen close friends of us, turning against us, we have seen enemies of this collective becoming close friends as we were soldiering on, because we knew in politics there are no permanent friends and there are no permanent enemies.”

Malema’s political, business and personal networks are often closely interwoven. It is especially the business networks that have enjoyed attention as there have been reports of malpractice.

Floyd Shivambu, EFF deputy president, has been close to Malema since their days in ANC Youth League politics, where Shivambu was the spokesperson. Shivambu resigned from the party when he was suspended at the same time that Malema was expelled. Shivambu is considered to be an intellectual and the brains behind the EFF. He has allegedly received laundered money, together with Malema, from On Point Engineering, which received illegal government contracts in Limpopo.

Marshall Dlamini, EFF secretary general. His DMM Media and Entertainment got payments from a company named LTE Consulting, which in turn got tenders from the Limpopo government. He also played a role in helping fix tenders in Tshwane and Johannesburg prior to becoming secretary general in 2019.

Deputy police minister Cassel Mathale and Malema’s friendship date back to more than a decade ago when Mathale was Limpopo premier and Malema in the ANC Youth League. It involved lavish parties and trips, and allegedly also business deals. They are still said to be close.

Transport minister Fikile Mbalula was Malema’s predecessor in the ANC Youth League. They were close in politics and despite being in different political parties now, they still get together sociall. Mbalula last year said during an interview on Johannesburg-based Radio 702: “Julius is my friend. We lived together for a long time and we transcended comradeship to become friends – meaning I know his family, he knows my family.”

Winnie Madikizela-Mandela (died 2018), struggle stalwart and a firebrand, publicly supported Malema during his hate speech trial in 2011 for chanting “kill the boer”, which some said was a call for violence against white people. She remained “political mother” for Malema even after he was kicked out of the ANC. Malema is close to Madikizela-Mandela’s children.

Mzwandile Masina is friends with Malema from ANC Youth League days, although he presided over the task team that oversaw Malema’s expulsion from the organisation. He was mayor of the Ekurhuleni Metro around Johannesburg, but lost his position when the EFF voted against the ANC in a surprise move following the local elections at the end of last year. “Our friendship has never been based on voting for each other. He never voted for me when I was in the ANC Youth League,” Malema said aftewards. Masina and Malema famously went together for tea at former president Jacob Zuma’s Nkandla homestead last year, but they never revealed details of what was discussed.

Matsobane John Phaleng, Malema’s cousin allegedly got a cut of a school feeding tender in 2012 and money allegedly siphoned off VBS Mutual Bank (a Limpopo-based bank that went insolvent in 2018 as savings and pension money of the poor was stolen) was paid into his Mahuna investements.

Tshepo Malema, cousin, got a cut of Phaleng’s school feeding tender 2012 as well as a pothole tender in 2011.

Jimmy Matlebyane, cousin aka “Jimmy-fire Malema”, is a DJ fronting for Malema at Santaclara Trading (named after the town where Guevara’s mausoleum is), which received donations from businessman Thulani Majola from LTE Consulting. This bank account helps pay for Malema’s personal expenses and some party activities.

Jossie Buthane as the ANCYL regional secretary in Peter Mokaba region when he got a cut of school feeding tender in 2012. He headed the EFF in the Limpopo province until recently, when the leadership was disbanded following a poor showing in the 2021 local government elections.

Jabavu Olifant, served as Malema’s bodyguard and security adviser and got a cut of the 2012 school feeding tender 2012. It is not clear if they’re still close.

Tebadi Collins Foromo is Malema’s former driver and business associate, although he denied this much in reports that he was given a tender to fix potholes in Limpopo province.

Lesiba Gwangwa headed On Point Engineering and was a business partner to Malema. No mention is made of this in his current profile on the web site of African Chemicals, where he is a CEO, so it is possible that he has been distancing himself from Malema in recent years.

Simbi Phiri is a Malawian tycoon who owns Khato Civils and South Zambezi, which got large water tenders in Giyani linked to Malema and which escalated four times the original value after the contract was awarded. A video of Malema and Phiri drinking at Phiri’s house went viral in 2019.

Larry Mavundla, bodyguard

Adriano Mazzotti, the owner of CarniLinx is a self-confessed cigarette smuggler and EFF donor. He gave the party money in 2014 to register with the Electoral Commission, among others. with the IEC, amongst others.

Brian Shivambu, brother of Floyd Shivambu, allegedly benefited from large amounts of money siphoned off VBS Mutual Bank.

Ratanang Malema, 15, Malema’s eldest son with businesswoman Maropeng Ramohlale. Malema used the Ratanang Trust, registered soon after he became ANC Youth League leader in 2008, to receive kickbacks from tenders in Limpopo.

Mantwa Matlala-Malema – wife, married in 2014

Kopano (2018), Munzhedzi (2016), each with a family trust established in their names.

Koko Sarah Malema – grandmother who raised him (died 2019) and his “confidante”

Tshepo, Tsubi, Ronny, his siblings.

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