Johannesburg - EFF leader Julius Malema has insisted his visit and meeting with former president Thabo Mbeki was a sign of mature leadership on the latter’s part, considering Malema’s role in his recall from high office.
Malema took his overtures to Mbeki since being booted out of the ANC to another level on Monday when he invited the media to witness a private meeting with the former head of state at his Joburg home. At the meeting, he introduced the party’s leadership to Mbeki and tried to persuade him to vote EFF on Monday.
Malema was a staunch critic of Mbeki when he was still the leader of the ANC Youth League and was part of the group within the ANC which called for Mbeki to be recalled as the president of the country in 2008.
However, Malema last year publicly apologised to Mbeki in a speech in Parliament.
He claimed that President Jacob Zuma had influenced his feelings towards Mbeki when he made it clear that he did not want to work with Mbeki.
In 2014, Malema also apologised to Mbeki’s mother for the things he had said about her son at the height of the ANC’s Zuma-Mbeki rift, which culminated in the latter’s defeat at the 2007 elective conference and his removal from office about nine months later. It paved the way for Zuma to enter the Presidency in 2009.
“There is no endorsement, there’s a difference between an endorsement and someone voting for you. We came to ask him to vote for the EFF, as we do with everyone else everywhere,” Malema said.
Read more: Malema confident after meeting with Mbeki
“The reality is that the EFF represents Africanism, and the president is an Africanist. The EFF is a party that subscribes to 50-50 gender party; we know the president’s passion about gender.
“We have met many times with President Mbeki before today, and we also met his mother as well, so there’s nothing awkward. President Mbeki knows that politics is politics, he’s a seasoned politician. We will always disagree or agree, that’s how politics is.
“That’s the good thing about having mature leaders like himself who don’t become petty and want to talk about dead issues,”he added.
But the ANC wasn’t impressed, saying there was nothing special about the EFF meeting with Mbeki.
“The ANC’s approach of leadership is to meet everybody,” ANC secretary-general Gwede Mantashe told reporters in Joburg on Monday.
There’s nothing special about Mbeki meeting the EFF.”
Mbeki’s spokesman Mukoni Ratshitanga echoed Mantashe’s sentiments, saying Mbeki remained a leader in society as the former president.
“The ANC are about building an inclusive and tolerant society, and they would not view it as criminal for President Mbeki to meet with any member of any party.
“Certainly from his position as a former president of the Republic, who was a leader of ANC members and non-ANC members, a meeting like this should not come as a surprise.
“He remains a leader of the people of this country, not just a leader from one specific party. He was not endorsing the EFF,” said Ratshitanga.
According to Ratshitanga, the EFF asked to come to see Mbeki about its own policies and to ask for his vote.
“In fact they were supposed to come with their ward councillor candidate, but as we understand, he was out helping people with special votes.
“It’s a normal thing that any party would do. If the DA or the ANC knocked on his door, he would oblige.”
The EFF visit to Mbeki comes after the former president reportedly declined to campaign for the ANC, in contrast to several other party veterans.