Battle of the snipers.

Author:Raji, Rafiq
Position:Around Africa: South Africa - Corruption charges involving Economic Freedom Fighters' Julius Malema and public enterprises minister Pravin Gordhan

Whatever you can say about South African politics, you cannot claim it lacks drama. Firebrand leader of the EFF, Julius Malema seems to have set his sights on the highly respected Pravin Gordhan, who is firing back. What is behind all the sniping? Rafiq Raji discusses.

In November, South Africa's public enterprises minister Pravin Gordhan filed a complaint with the police against Julius Malema, the firebrand leader of the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF), an ultra-leftist political party increasingly gaining ground amongst poor black South Africans. Shortly afterwards, Malema filed his own charges against Gordhan, calling him corrupt. Hitherto, Malema had largely not been challenged quite so strongly by those at the receiving end of his sharp rhetoric.

That Gordhan chose to go through the legal route could also be interpreted to mean he is confident no skeletons would be found in his own cupboard. Malema and his party do not believe that for a second. Still, there are not many cadres of the ruling ANC that would be willing to take Malema on with such determination.

The EFF alleges Gordhan has a foreign bank account--which ministers are not allowed to have--with the Royal Bank of Canada, for instance, a claim Gordhan denies. An investigation by Neivs24, a South African newspaper, shows the bank account details were probably made up. It reports that Gordhan does not have Canadian citizenship, nor is he in the process of acquiring it. So, he would not have been able to open the said account. It remains to be seen what the legal process would reveal.

Rising stature

But Malema and his EFF party are having other effects on South African politics. Without a doubt, the ANC has tilted more to the left than would ordinarily be the case were the EFF not gaining popularity. For instance, the ANC argues that 'the expropriation ofland without compensation' mantra, being championed by the EFF, has been an ANC policy from the outset.

Most would agree, however, that had the EFF not made it a major issue, the ANC would probably not have been too eager to follow through on it so quickly. In early December, the South African parliament adopted the report of its constitutional review committee that recommended the amendment of the Constitution to allow for the expropriation of land without compensation. A clear win for the EFF. There have also been quite a number of other political wins for the EFF. Malema did mention, before the fact, that former Finance...

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