The leader of South Africa’s opposition Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) movement has launched his party’s campaign for the upcoming local elections, promising to rescue citizens from poverty, unemployment and corrupt government.
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 are not chasing the whites away. We are 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, and 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’s campaign promises
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.