Members of Julius Malema’s EFF party, who are building a house for one of President Jacob Zuma’s poor neighbours, have received death threats, allegedly from local ANC supporters. The ANC denied this.
A group of ANC supporters, led by their branch chairman, allegedly threatened with death and chased away EFF members from the construction site at the weekend.
The EFF members had come to view progress on the building, which is being built for a mother and two children – just a few metres away from Zuma’s expanded homestead.
Police had to be called in to defuse tension between members of the two parties as tempers flared on Saturday, with the groups nearly coming to blows and exchanging verbal threats and insults.
The convener of the EFF in KwaZulu-Natal, Vusi Khoza, claimed the ANC branch chairman, Bongokwakhe Mbambo, had threatened them.
“He repeatedly said they would kill us if we don’t leave. This happened even in full view of the police,” said Khoza.
Mbambo denied the claim yesterday, saying: “We did not threaten anyone. If we wanted to beat them up we would have done so.”
Mbambo accused the EFF of provoking ANC members in Nkandla, saying those who had come there on Saturday were heavily armed. “We confronted them because every time we passed by, they took our pictures and pictures of the president’s house. We wanted to know why they took our pictures.”
However, Mbambo admitted that he and his supporters had made it clear that EFF T-shirts and berets were not welcomed.
“If they are genuinely building a house for a poor family why are they wearing party regalia? We told them politely that such was not welcome,” he said.
“We said they can build, but no EFF T-shirts or berets are welcome if it’s a genuine community upliftment project.”
Khoza said even the intervention of the local traditional leader, Bheki Zuma, did not help. “In the end the inkosi (Zuma) advised us that those wearing EFF T-shirts had to leave the site and go wait at the multi-purpose centre.”
Khoza said the EFF had decided to help build the house for the poor family after their plight was brought to the attention of party leaders by its members in Nkandla.
“After I learnt of this, I then contacted the commander-in-chief (Malema) who promised to do something to help the family. He then raised funding for the house.”
Khoza’s construction company was contracted to build the two-bedroom home, 300m away from the president’s house where some R208 million had been spent on improvements and security upgrades.
“By Saturday we had built up to window level, hence we decided that it is time that members of EFF’s provincial command team come and view progress, which is when we were threatened,” Khoza said.
But construction was continuing, he said, and Malema was expected to formally hand over the house to the family when it was completed.
Ward councillor Sibongiseni Bhengu (ANC) said the family was not among those topping the government housing waiting lists.
“It is not true that the family is poor and therefore they have not been prioritised,” he said.
“This does not mean we won’t build for them, but we are prioritising the very poor. It is also not true that a single mother with two children resides there. I can tell you that the woman is married and the husband works for government and is well off; he even has two cars.”
Khoza dismissed claims that the family were well off, saying the home was a mud structure with a leaking roof.
Police spokesman, Captain Thulani Zwane, confirmed Saturday’s incident, saying police were called to calm tensions between two groupings.
No damage to property or attacks on individuals were reported.
“Police then kept a close eye on the situation to ensure there is no violence,” he said. “We have not heard anything today (yesterday).”
Zwane said anyone who was being threatened had a right to open a criminal case. He said Khoza, who claimed he was barred from doing so by the police, should contact the station commissioner for assistance.