Lucia Hendricks, 33, and Esther Taukobong, 27, are two friends and neighbours in Soweto’s Elias Motsoaledi informal settlement who are not particularly interested in politics.
But when they heard that Julius Malema would be in town to address residents on Sunday, they didn’t waste time deciding they would go and listen to him. So they joined about 3 000 residents who braved the searing heat, waiting for the EFF leader to arrive.
Malema’s visit to the area appeared to bring almost the entire settlement to a standstill.
Young and old, including children, poured out of their homes and crowded onto a patchy field to see – and listen – to Malema.
“I want to hear what he says. He talks straight. And he is not afraid to talk the truth. We want real change, and from what I hear, he (Malema) looks promising,” said Hendricks, pushing forward to listen as Malema began to speak.
Cheers of “Juju! Juju! Juju!” echoed through the settlement.
Malema seemed to stutter initially. His address about the Elias Motsoaledi municipality was a little devoid of the rabble-rousing and flourish for which he has become known.
But that was only a prelude to his war-talk against the ANC, and he blamed the ruling party for repeatedly betraying the poor by treating them as “third-class citizens”.
“We were told that this cross (casting votes) will put an end to our suffering and pain. Even after voting, nothing happened. What it means is that all these things (promises) were lies,” Malema said.
To rapturous applause, he continued: “You still don’t know the meaning of true freedom, (so long as) you still stay in shacks. Freedom is a story. You and your children haven’t received the fruits of the struggle because somebody continues to lie. He (President Jacob Zuma) said South Africa is a better place to live in. He lied in Parliament. If he knew Elias Motsoaledi (an anti-apartheid activist who died in 1994), he wasn’t going to say that nonsense.”
Hendricks and Taukobong leaned forward as Malema spoke about the hardships of living in informal settlements like Elias Motsoaledi.
“A shack will never bring you dignity. There are no proper roads here. They think it’s a dumping site,” Malema said,
He then took a swipe at Zuma.
“Ntate (Father) Zuma will also come here, but he won’t tell you anything except to jive for you. We need more than a dancing president. We need a president who, when he speaks, will speak about how to resolve the poverty crisis,” he said.
Urging residents to help themselves by voting EFF on May 7, he said his party would double the social grants.
Hendricks and Taukobong were impressed. “I think he said the right things. He touched my heart because we are suffering. He is the right leader,” said Hendricks, a married mother-of-three.
Taukobong said: “He spoke the truth. Now I know which party to vote for. We will fight for our rights and life.”