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Pretoria - Julius Malema outwitted a group of young detractors who were baying for his blood in Seshego, his hometown outside Polokwane, on Wednesday.
The expelled ANCYL president remained calm in the face of provocation and insults from a handful of young men who had been looking for a confrontation with him.
The group, led by Malema’s former childhood friend-turned-enemy, Boy Mamabolo, had planned to humiliate the expelled ANCYL leader when he cast his vote during a by-election in ward 13 on Wednesday.
The group rushed into the voting station when Malema arrived at Mponegele Primary School just after midday. They wanted to make him stand in the queue like everybody else. “Nobody is special here,” Mamabolo told Malema as he walked from his car.
Mamabolo dared Malema’s entourage to assault him, saying he did not fear them.
Mamabolo and his seven friends had been loitering around the voting station since 9am, but had not voted when Malema arrived later in the day. The voting had been brisk at the polling station before Malema’s arrival.
Wearing an ANC shirt, Malema arrived in a white Mercedes-Benz S500 amid a heavy police presence.
Led by Seshego police station commander Dikeledi Mangena, more than 20 police officers manned the voting station - a water tanker, a police Nyala and about 10 marked police vehicles stood nearby.
Pandemonium broke out between Malema’s confidant Jossie Buthane and Mamabolo’s group just before Malema alighted from his car. Mamabolo objected to Buthane’s decision to stand in the queue for Malema.
However, Independent Electoral Commission provincial electoral officer Nkaro Mateta saved the day when he intervened and allowed Mamabolo’s group to cast their vote before Malema.
As he made his way towards IEC officials, Malema said: “Can I get space here? Since when is voting a problem?”
He later told journalists that he was unfazed by “irresponsible remarks” by security cluster ministers last week, who he said had labelled him a counter-revolutionary. The remarks were made following the Marikana massacre.
“In other countries, counter-revolutionaries get assassinated and that - coming from the minister of defence and generals of the army giving such warnings… [actually creates] a fertile ground for assassination,” said Malema.
He said the Marikana miners had fought for a 22 percent salary hike on their own, without union leaders.
“All workers must begin to demand a living wage, the workers must fight for their rightful rights.”
Malema appeared to have retained his popularity among some of the locals. After he had cast his vote, he walked towards the ANC’s makeshift gazebo, where he sat down with party officials and posed for pictures.
DA members, wearing party T-shirts, also took pictures with Malema, as his supporters shouted “Juju, Juju, Juju”.
DA provincial leader and MP Jacques Smalle was confident his party would win the ward because of the apparent divisions in the ANC.