Durban - It is an unexpected and unlikely “friendship”, but veteran politician IFP leader Mangosuthu Buthelezi and Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) leader Julius Malema have held a joint press conference in Durban, saying any bad blood between them is history.
At the briefing, held at the Durban Manor Hotel on Monday, Malema, 32, apologised to Buthelezi, 85, for the rude remarks he had made about him in the past.
Malema said he had been wanting to meet Buthelezi since last year, but for many reasons this had been impossible.
Young people should have respect for their elders, despite their political differences, Malema said.
He described their past relationship as “unfortunate”, saying he was looking forward to a new beginning that would extend beyond the elections this year.
“We are still contesting against one another. It is a healthy competition, and we will support each other where we can. We will make it possible so that no one gets harmed.”
Malema said his apology to Buthelezi was sincere, and not a strategy to “get into KZN”, the home province of President Jacob Zuma and the bedrock of the ANC.
Buthelezi said he accepted the apology.
“Mr Malema and I both come from a background in the ANC Youth League, although I was a member of that body during a different era. The politics of his era have vastly changed from the politics of my own,” he said.
There was a strong need in a multiparty democracy for myriad voices to represent the diverse aspirations of people.
“Where the IFP finds common ground with the EFF is in the service of our nation. We will respect each other’s contribution,” he said.
Political analyst Somadoda Fikeni said that in politics yesterday’s enemy could easily become today’s bosom buddy.
“There are no permanent friends and no permanent enemies, but there are permanent interests,” he said. “The frustration of smaller political parties is what causes them to work together with the aim of bringing down the ANC.”
Fikeni said this new “friendship” would allow Malema to campaign in KZN.
“It’s a major coup for Malema, because his obsession is to get to Zuma.
“Even if it means that he gets one seat in the KZN legislature, he would be happy to brag about that.”
The IFP, according to Fikeni, has not enjoyed great political fortune.
Political analyst Protas Madlala said the relationship was a “big plus” for Buthelezi, who had been struggling.
As for Malema, he was just after the spotlight, targeting people who were higher up in politics.
“He is marketing his party, as we know that the EFF and the IFP are very much apart in terms of their thinking.
“Malema must remember (that) you can’t start a party based on anger – look at where Cope is today.”
Malema and Buthelezi’s fraught relationship began in the run-up to the 2009 general elections, when Malema, who was then the darling of the ANC, told Buthelezi he would recruit the IFP leader’s family for the party.
Buthelezi responded by saying Malema was “no more than an ill-bred brat whose behaviour is not only un-African, but crude by the standards of any culture in the world”.
In October that year, Malema once again lashed out at Buthelezi, describing him as a “factory fault”.
“He (Buthelezi) was assigned by the movement to start a cultural group that would mobilise our people, but he saw an opportunity and turned it into a political organisation.”
In May 2011, Malema said the IFP leader was “an old man who refused to retire despite his alleged ill health”.
“We want people who are healthy who will be able to serve us, who will move from one house to the other without resting in between,” Malema said, miming an old person battling with back pain.
In October that year, Buthelezi accused Malema of being “divisive” after ”racist” comments in which referred to Indians as “c******” in a speech in Joburg.
“He has offended all of us as South Africans… As blacks, (we) resent those who still call us ‘k******’,” he said.
Of Malema’s EFF, Buthelezi said: “Given a platform, the EFF will reverse the gains we have made in nation-building and social cohesion.
“At a time like this, when South Africa faces such dire challenges of unemployment, poverty and corruption, stirring divisions is both easy and terribly dangerous.”