Julius Malema: facing criminal charges

South Africa: Opposition in disarray

Julius Malema, leader of the Economic Freedom Fighters, is facing jail for fraud

Also in the news this week has been the aforementioned Julius Malema, who was expelled from the ANC in 2011 for portraying Zuma’s government “in a negative light”. He reacted by forming the black-nationalist Economic Freedom Fighters - he is the EFF “commander-in-chief” presiding over his troops in their red berets. The EFF has taken to posing on the extreme left, calling for land redistribution and large-scale nationalisations.

Malema himself had benefited from the ANC’s sponsorship of black “entrepreneurs” - while he was Youth League president he made a small fortune (thanks to his official contacts, some might say). But now the high court has ruled in favour of the provisional sequestra­tion of his assets, as requested by the South African Revenue Service. Malema had previously conceded that he owes more than R16 million (£880,000) in tax, but now claims he had been misled when making that admission. In the meantime several of his properties have been auctioned off to cover the debts. Malema is also facing trial later this year on charges of fraud and corruption.

Not a happy situation for the EFF leader less than three months before an election in which his new party was looking likely to take a lot of votes from the ANC. The EFF has successfully appealed to the urban poor and shack-dwellers on the basis of rhetoric directed against “white monopoly capital”, but Malema’s latest travails (all part of an ANC conspiracy, he implies) are certain to damage it.

Meanwhile, the latest hopes of the ruling class to see the establishment of a credible alternative to the ANC have gone up in smoke. The new Agang party, set up by former World Bank managing director Mamphela Ramphele, is facing disintegration following the failed attempt to merge with the main opposition party, the Democratic Alliance. The DA is the direct descendant of the apartheid National Party and the idea of the merger was to help it ‘black up’ - Ramphele, sitting alongside DA leader Helen Zille on January 28, an­nounced that the two had agreed that she should be the DA’s first black presidential candidate. But it turned out that Ramphele had not consulted with the Agang leadership and the trumpeted merger was in tatters within a week.

So, in the absence of any credible opposition, the ANC will easily win the general election. However, May 7 could well see the return of a cou­ple of leftwing MPs from the Workers and Socialist Party (Wasp), set up by the South African affiliate of Peter Taaffe’s Committee for a Workers’ International. Wasp has been bitterly disappointed by the failure of Numsa to respond to its invitation to make the union’s talk of a new socialist party a reality by joining forces with Wasp: “We believe Numsa should make Wasp its home and take ownership of it. Numsa should stamp its imprint all over Wasp. Our call is for Numsa to take its place in the leadership of Wasp” (Wasp statement, January 31).

In the same article the CWI com­rades try to square the circle of the contradiction between their formal commitment to a revolutionary party and their call for a ‘broad’ party led by left reformists like the Numsa leadership: “We do not believe there is an unbreachable wall between the idea of a mass workers’ party and a vanguard party. In fact, to separate the two into self-contained boxes is to try and introduce a static schema, when a dynamic, living interaction is the reality …. We believe that at this stage of the working class’s develop­ment, where it has neither a mass workers’ party nor a clear vanguard, the task is best formulated in the following way: for a mass workers’ party on a socialist programme with an organised revolutionary leader­ship at its core.”

Sorry, comrades, but that still seems a long way off. Nevertheless, the South African form of proportional represen­tation, based on the party list system, where there is no minimum threshold for election, should result in Wasp achieving the 0.25% national return it needs for parliamentary representa­tion, especially after the publicity it received following its intervention in the 2011 miners’ strikes and the subse­quent attempt at a witch-hunt by ANC secretary general and SACP central committee member Gwede Mantashe (Weekly Worker July 4 2013).