The South African 2014 election challenge is entering its last few days, and Julius Malema, the founder of the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) is branded as the chief threat for May 7. The charismatic leader continues his relentless election campaign across the country in a last attempt to obtain a majority score.
The people of South Africa appear to love Malema and his promises of a better place for all. In his campaign, he is unwavering in his professed commitment to nationalize the land, banks and mines of South Africa. Recently, Malema has added the sea to his nationalizing list. He states that he wants all citizens to benefit from the natural resources of the land. Malema is gaining momentum as he wraps up his EFF campaign with new promises and more threats of taking over the stronghold of the African National (ANC) party.
While Malema is a threat to the ruling party and other contesting parties, there are reports of unfair practices and electoral violence threatening the fifth democratic election of South Africa. President Jacob Zuma continues to call on all citizens to participate in peaceful elections. There are concealed currents of violence and intimidation as the election trail continues, disruptions of rallies and social media remarks fueling racial hostilities. The repeated appeal for calm during the elections by Zuma could indicate that he is aware of potential risks during this time.
Malema has gathered a large support base since the inception of the EFF party, and his ardent and loyal followers continue to work to ensure there is a victory to be celebrated. In particular, the North West region is experiencing a higher than normal violence during electioneering. Malema attracted strong support from the striking miners in the platinum belt and the Marikana squatter settlements.
The ANC have experienced a setback in that area and one of their offices near the Marikana area was burnt down. Recently groups of people throwing stones continued to rampage through the streets setting alight ANC members houses. ANC posters were destroyed, and some ANC officials were escorted out of the area in an armored police vehicle. The residents only allowing Malema and EFF supporters to stay in the downtrodden area.
Malema has consistently remained in the headlines since his decision to join the political arena as a contender to the upcoming elections. His energetic personality provokes strong reactions and crowds gather around to hear him pitch his election platform. Malema is a strong critic of the ANC, amassing unprecedented support around the country. There is a lot of speculation that the high-profile spectacle currently being created may lead to his imprisonment after the elections.
President Jacob Zuma charms crowds during rally meetings with his dancing, singing and jokes. Malema, in contrast, lures the crowds with his rhetoric along with the humor. “A message of hope,” is what Julius Malema tells the captivated crowds who urge him to continue with his message of supposedly true freedom. A rapturous response to his rallies pushes Malema to continue pouncing around in the glare of publicity. Malema remains a constant headline snatcher during the entire election campaign, and at the same time a spinner who tells a story very convincingly. Unscripted speeches ridiculing Zuma and the ANC is a favorite theme for Malema. His promises, jokes and snide remarks entertain the masses.
Malema is being seen by many as a chief threat to democracy, and not only within the governing party. Individuals around the country have begun to publicly question his arrogance and constant promises of nationalization as a real danger to the stability and growth of South Africa. To many people, Malema is a terrifying opponent of the ruling party and the expressed concern is that his campaign is diminishing the prospects of an election free from intimidation and violence. The increasingly violent demonstrations like the one at the Marikana ANC offices lend credibility to that fear.
On May 7 voting will begin in earnest, and months of campaigning by the political parties to render a realistic change for the country will end. Within a few days, South Africa will see the final outcome of the election. The country will know whether Julius Malema is indeed the chief threat to the entire election campaign and the ANC ruling party, or just a spectacle which has allowed him to dominate the headlines for a while.
By Laura Oneale