Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) leader Julius Malema might be attempting to benefit from the political impasse within the ANC over former president Jacob Zuma’s public standoff with the Commission of Inquiry into State Capture.
That is the view of political economist, Dale McKinley, who says Malema’s proposed “tea” encounter with Zuma this coming weekend at his Nkandla residence in KwaZulu-Natal could benefit the Red Berets ahead of the local government elections.
“This is an opportunity that other political parties seek to take advantage of from various angles. My sense would be that they like to position themselves as a meditator to try to deal with this so that it doesn’t get out of hand,” McKinley told The Citizen on Thursday.
Malema on Wednesday sent a tweet to Zuma asking if they could “please have tea urgently”, a suggestion that the former president acceded to despite their public fallout over the years.
Thobela Moshabi. I have seen your request to share a cup of tea. As you know, Nkandla village is home for me and that is where my time is spent these days. Tea I have plenty of, you are more than welcome to come over for a cup. https://t.co/7Okdw94WAH
— Jacob G Zuma (@PresJGZuma) February 3, 2021
The request from the EFF leader came just two days after Zuma said he would rebel against a Constitutional Court (ConCourt) order compelling him to appear before the State Capture Commission this month. The commission on Tuesday said it would open a criminal case against him for failing to appear before it in January.
According to McKinley, Malema is trying to position the EFF as a mediator between Zuma and the commission.
The former president has complained about unfair treatment and bias from the commission’s chairperson, Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo, and lost an application in November last year to have him recused from hearing his testimony.
McKinley said the EFF was therefore trying to “take advantage of a situation which is messy for the ANC and which the EFF politically could benefit from”.
“It [EFF] benefits from it because the local government elections are coming up. Every political party always has elections in mind, how they are going to be perceived and their support base. And my sense would be that the EFF is looking at this as a good opportunity to come across as responsible and people who are going to have the ear of both factions [within the ANC],” he said.
“If they indeed succeed, then they could take some support. I would assume that that’s their primary motive,” he added.
Ironically, the EFF on Monday said in a statement Zuma’s decision to defy the ConCourt was misguided and called on him to reconsider his decision, but shared similar reservations to Zuma that the commission’s proceedings were factional in their approach.
McKinley said Malema’s tea encounter with Zuma also had the potential to backfire.
“I think it’s a very slippery slope but that has not prevented the EFF from going to these kinds of choppy waters before. Once we find out what has transpired, then we’ll able to judge that a little bit more clearly. So, it depends on Zuma’s response,” McKinley said.
He also agreed that Malema’s request to meet with Zuma on a platform like Twitter could raise questions about whether he consults his party before making such a decision.
“Whatever suits him I think is the sort of mantra of governance within the EFF. Without Malema, the EFF would probably fall apart fairly quickly I imagine,” he said.
But what could Zuma stand to gain from his meeting with Malema?
“Zuma’s strategy has always been to avoid accountability irrespective of him saying he wants his day in court… the main thing for Zuma is keeping out of jail [and] whatever will serve that purpose, he will do it,” McKinley said.