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Around 40,000 people turned up at Orlando Stadium in Soweto on Saturday displaying massive support for fiery EFF leader Julius Malema’s promises to seize white-owned land without compensation and nationalise the banks.
The huge turnout was a shot across the bows of the ANC, which failed to fill a similar stadium during the launch of its own manifesto in the coastal city of East London two weeks ago. “We’re not chasing the whites away. We’re saying you have too much land. We want you here in South Africa, but 80 percent of the land belongs to us,” Malema told the crowd.
The white minority still holds the vast majority of farmland as well as a disproportionate share of the country’s wealth. The EFF is capitalising on black discontent over the perceived lack of change under the ANC government since the end of apartheid 22 years ago.
Malema, clad in the EFF’s signature red overalls and beret, made many promises from free land, water and electricity for the poor to flushing toilets in all homes as he campaigned ahead of municipal elections in August.
“We want black communities to be like white communities,” he told the enthusiastic crowd. The ANC, which has ruled since its iconic leader Nelson Mandela took power in 1994, showed in 2014 national elections that it still had overwhelming support.
However, it has been hard hit by a series of scandals involving President Jacob Zuma and some commentators predict it could lose a couple of major municipalities in the upcoming vote. The EFF was founded 2013 by Malema after he was thrown out as the leader of the ANC’s youth wing.
In national elections less than a year later it won more than a million votes, taking 25 seats in parliament and becoming the third largest party behind the centrist Democratic Alliance, which holds 89 seats.
This will be the first time the EFF has contested local elections, where issues such as housing, service delivery, poverty and unemployment rank high on voters’ lists of complaints.
Meanwhile, Malema says there are only two parties that should contest the elections in South Africa – the ANC and EFF. “Everyone else is wasting time,” Malema said to loud applause. “We don’t compete against anyone else but the ANC.” Malema said the EFF was already winning, as they had managed to fill Orlando Stadium. He said people were still fighting outside to get in while he was speaking.
“ANC failed to fill Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium. We’ve beaten them. We’re contesting against the ANC and no one else. Not any other Mickey Mouse party. Bring it on, we’re ready for you. We’re not scared of you,” he said to another round of cheers and ululations. “We’re reclaiming the legacy of Winnie Mandela, Robert Sobukwe. The black nation must be proud. This is for the poor people. This is for you, Africa.”
Malema said people should accept that they could never defeat the black nation. He maintained that his party was being funded by black people and that no white person was pulling strings in the background.
“This is a party for black people. This is a socialist party that’s unstoppable,” said Malema. Earlier, he took a jab at the DA, mentioning a banner that it had flown over the stadium. “This is a real banner,” he said, in reference to an EFF banner at the stadium, “not that Mickey Mouse banner that was flying here”.
While the DA banner was flying above the stadium, an SMS reportedly from the DA was distributed around the country. It read: “EFF wants to bring back violence and chaos. They’re too extreme to be trusted to govern SA.”
Earlier on Saturday that DA issued a statement calling on Malema to apologise during his manifesto launch for various controversial statements made in the past.
“I today challenge … Malema, to use the opportunity of live coverage to apologise to South Africa as a whole for his radical and hateful statements which have over many years sought to divide South Africa,” Democratic Alliance spokesperson Phumzile Van Damme said in a statement.by Sapa.