After a robust election campaign and a lull of no parliamentary activity, there's been a flurry activity in recent days with the legislature in Cape Town rolling out the red carpet welcoming newly elected members of parliament (MPs).
Interview: Julius Malema, Leader, Economic Freedom Fighters, South Africa
TAR: The EFF recently celebrated its fifth anniversary. Are you satisfied with the party’s growth?
The EFF has done very well. It has changed the political landscape in South Africa. You cannot talk politics in South Africa or parliament without talking about the EFF. Any injustice that our people come to experience, they confront it. And in the process of that confrontation, the EFF will be mentioned. Those who are meting an injustice against the people will be threatened by the EFF. So it is clear that the EFF has occupied the hearts and minds of our people.
The EFF made considerable inroads during the 2016 local government elections. What are your thoughts on your partnering with opposition parties?
Well, the local government outcome didn’t surprise us. We expected it. We are a new organisation, and a lot of people are still trying to understand what the EFF represents. And they will try by all means to follow it through because we are the victims of the previous opposition parties, which have not lasted. And as a result, people are scared to invest their emotions in a party that can disappear any time. […] The longevity of the EFF is the one [thing] that will turn the attitude of the people in favour of the EFF because they can’t trust new ideas.
We cannot use investors to determine the future of our people. Our people want land
What is your view on the state of the country since Jacob Zuma was replaced as president by Cyril Ramaphosa?
Well with Cyril, it’s old wine in a new bottle. It doesn’t bring anything new. And South Africans know that themselves. That’s why they don’t give the ANC any mandate. Since Ramaphosa got elected, he has been declining [in popularity]. The ANC support did not increase in whatever way possible. So, yes, it’s not anything scary to us. […] It is a continuation of the same thing, and Mr Ramaphosa has continued with the same ministers who were involved in corruption, who have got no ethics, who don’t respect the rule of law. He does that in the name of African National Congress unity, even if it compromises the integrity of South Africa in the international community.
Your party has submitted a bill to nationalise the South African Reserve Bank (SARB). Why?
We submitted a private member’s amendment bill in August. The EFF promised it will pursue nationalisation of banks, and the first step is the SARB amendment bill. The SARB has since 1994 failed dismally to facilitate financial inclusion – six of the largest banks are responsible for 90% of all banking facilities. And it is owned by white minorities who often apply racist criteria to who gains access to banking services in the country. We are unapologetic and asking for the nationalisation of SARB so that it is reflective of demographics of South Africa. Central banks all over the world are not owned by private people, and ours should not be privately owned by white people who exclude black people.
The EFF has promised to be at the forefront of the land expropriation without compensation debate. Why is this issue so important?
We need land for our people so that they can work the land and feed themselves. The message is clear that Section 25 of the Constitution is going to be amended. Land will be expropriated without compensation […]. There must not be ambiguity in the constitution on whether the state can expropriate land without compensation.
And what about the concerns of investors?
No. The investors were nervous even in 1994. They’re always nervous. When Nelson Mandela left the presidency, they were nervous. When Thabo Mbeki became president, they were nervous. They always doubt because that’s the nature of politics and investment. So we cannot use investors to determine the future of our people. Our people want land. Investors will find their own way into South Africa through accepting what is the South African policy with regard to land.
Your party’s been very successful in mobilising at the grassroots and also using social media to get your message across. Has this been a specific strategy of yours?
We are just adapting to new conditions. The conditions from time to time will change, and my party knows how to adapt […]. It’s not only young people now who are using social media. Old people use social media. Religious people, now when they preach, they also preach about what they saw on Facebook, on Twitter.
This article first appeared in our October 2018 print edition of The Africa Report magazine