The sulphurous leader of the South African radical left, Julius Malema, launched his party’s campaign on Saturday for the next general elections, accusing the ruling ANC and threatening a historic electoral setback, of inaction in the face of ills from the country.
In front of thousands of supporters gathered in an almost full stadium in Durban (east), capital of the key province of KwaZulu-Natal with the largest number of voters, the leader of the second opposition party accused the African National Congress ( ANC) of “economic apartheid”.
“What is freedom without jobs?”, he lambasted, “what is freedom without electricity?”
President Cyril “Ramaphosa continues to kill our people,” asserted Mr. Malema, wearing his indestructible red beret and known for his provocations and his shocking expressions. “We want the power to use it decisively.”
The continent’s leading industrial power is facing a serious energy crisis causing power cuts of up to twelve hours a day. The socio-economic climate is also marked by endemic unemployment and growing inequalities.
In this gloomy context and with an image damaged by corruption cases, the ANC at the head of the country since the end of apartheid risks losing its absolute majority in Parliament for the first time following the next elections, according to opinion surveys.
The approximately 27.5 million South Africans registered to vote will have to go to the polls between May and August to renew their Parliament, which will then appoint the next president. The precise date of the election has yet to be announced.
In recent months, opposition parties have actively sought alliance strategies to dislodge the ANC.
The first, the Democratic Alliance (DA), still widely perceived as a white party, set up a coalition with ten small political groups. Administering the city of Cape Town, the DA, however, steadfastly refused to move closer to the EFF, citing deep differences in “values and principles”.
– “Lord of War” –
The EFF, which is inspired by Marxism-Leninism, has notably openly displayed its support for Russia after the invasion of Ukraine in early 2022. On Saturday, Julius Malema, who regularly makes the headlines in the local press for his outings provocatively, called Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu a “warlord”.
EFF MPs did not attend President Ramaphosa’s annual state of the nation address this week. Last year, several of them stormed the stage and interrupted the head of state’s speech.
Despite these escapades, the party’s popularity is on the rise and it could regain the position of leading opposition movement in the country. According to a recent Ipsos poll, the EFF and the DA are closely matched with 17% and 20% of voting intentions. In the 2019 general election, the EFF received just over 10% of the vote.
“Malema is popular because he has established himself as someone who dares to openly challenge power,” said political analyst Sandile Swana. And “the EFF has forged an identity as a party of young intellectuals and thinkers defending black education.”
In recent years, the party has tried to broaden its base by targeting young people in universities who are angry at growing poverty.
Julius Malema, who is the subject of several legal proceedings, regularly promises jobs and free education for all, as well as the return of land to black South Africans with the application of expropriation measures without compensation.
Malema, 42, founded the EFF in 2013 after leaving the ANC, where he led the Youth League.
The ANC currently holds 230 of the 400 seats (57.50%) in the National Assembly, the DA 84 (20.77%) and the EFF 44 (10.79%).
published on February 10 at 4:23 p.m., AFP