After almost everyone had written him off, Malema founded his own political party, the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF), which he marketed to South Africans as a corruption buster filled with principled crusaders for accountability and clean governance.
He has gained significant mileage from a campaign to force President Jacob Zuma to pay back a portion of the public money found to have been incorrectly spent on his Nkandla homestead, as recommended by
Public Protector Thuli Madonsela. So determined has Malema been to get Zuma to repay that money he has threatened to disrupt the president’s State of the Nation address if Zuma does not provide satisfactory answers about when he will cough up.
But recent scandals that have dogged the EFF suggest Malema still has a long way to go before he can portray himself as a paragon of virtue. Reports that a car was bought for Malema using the EFF’s money before being registered privately is one such scandal. So is Malema’s defence of his party’s outrageous decision to keep his staunch ally and convicted murderer, Papiki Babuile, in the position of EFF chief whip in the North West legislature.
Rallying around a convicted killer serving a 12-year jail sentence and endorsing a decision to keep him on a state-funded annual salary of nearly R1 million is a clear example of astonishing hypocrisy on Malema’s part.
The reality is regardless of his brave efforts to present himself as a denouncer of the looting of the public purse, Malema is himself far from squeaky clean. His track record on big spending to satisfy his insatiable appetite for the finer things in life is legendary.
He is currently out on bail while facing corruption and money laundering charges after being linked to a string of irregular multimillion-rand tenders in Limpopo.
He was fingered in the Limpopo financial crisis four years ago that saw several of the province’s departments placed under administration by government. Malema has also been blamed for the liquidation of the ANC Youth League, which ran into financial trouble while he was its president.
Malema has attributed virtually all his legal battles to a political conspiracy engineered by Zuma, whom he has also accused of using state machinery to destroy him.
While many have bought this claim, internal battles crippling the EFF could well render it baseless. Several disgruntled party members have made startling claims about how Malema has turned the EFF into his personal fiefdom.
These include former EFF national coordinator Mpho Ramakatsa, who is now demanding access to the EFF’s financial records.
Following revelations of the dodgy Malema car deal, many members have called for a fraud case to be opened against their leader.
If cops do pounce on him (again), it will be interesting to hear who Malema blames for the latest “political conspiracy” against him. Surely not Zuma.
Though millions of corruption-weary South Africans – who cannot wait to see the back of Zuma and his blemished administration – must be delighted to watch the antics of Malema in parliament, the truth is Malema is no messiah.