733 Economic Freedom Fighters Commander In Chief Julius Malema being interviewed by The Star in his party's offices in Braamfontein near Johannesburg. 240714 Picture: Boxer Ngwenya

The EFF marks its first anniversary on Saturday. Janet Smith interviews the party’s commander in-chief, Julius Malema, about Parliament, revolution and the plan to bring 50 000 supporters back to the Gauteng legislature

On Parliament

That’s just another terrain of contestation, which we have been doing all our lives. I’ve had an opportunity in my other life to present to committees in Parliament and attend caucuses, so from a physical and emotional point of view, one has always been ready for such an engagement. But being in Parliament is a huge responsibility, especially sitting in the committees because you can really advocate for your ideas there.

Even those who misunderstood what you stand for will appreciate it if you articulate yourself well there. We are used to speaking in a noisy environment of rallies and protest meetings and sometimes the message does not come across properly, but Parliament gives us that opportunity, which we welcome with both hands and will use in a manner that benefits and strengthens us.

I think for many of our new MPs, this is still a personal shock, but because they are activists, they are focused. They’re looking forward to their work every day.

It’s a bit different for me, because mostly I know everybody, so I’m never shaken because I know who in the ANC are the thinkers and who are the empty heads.

On dealing with the ANC in Parliament

The problem with them is that it looks like many ordinary MPs of the ANC are still in denial and have not come to accept we are no longer with them. At times they even call you and want to give you advice on how you must behave, and think they can still talk to you at that personal level to raise common issues.

In their minds, we are their comrades and some of them even want to clap hands when we speak, like, these are our issues, we agree with those issues. But we are not there to make friends.

We are not there to make enemies but to raise the issues of our people.

On their percentage

We didn’t achieve what we wanted to achieve. We were measuring ourselves through what Cope got in 2009, and we didn’t want anything less, but that’s what we got. We forgot that Cope had former premiers and ministers, and Cope was not headed by a person who’s on fraud and corruption charges or a person with issues with Sars and a person who’s vilified.

As the counting continued after the election, it was very clear that we wouldn’t do 2 million, and so we have accepted that we didn’t do well. But we also know we had a short time and financial restraints, and the type of policies we are advancing are hostile to the current establishment.

Some people feel we’ve done very well but we can’t mislead ourselves. As revolutionaries, we are still aiming for more.

On developing branches

We have started that process, and determined that each must have 100 members to launch. Our figures are going to be audited before our elective conference in December, and we plan to have a presence in 70 percent of municipal wards by then.

People must be mobilised into an organised formation. The reason the ANC has succeeded for many years, even against Black Consciousness organisations and their opponents, is because they exist in every corner of South Africa, and they are known by everybody, including people who do not have access to media.

They’ve got branches in those most remote, rural, inaccessible areas. People are never going to vote for people they don’t know.

I’d written off KwaZulu-Natal, addressing 50, 60 people in squatter camps and so on, but we got two. We thought, if we got nothing, we’re not going to be cry-babies, but we had a rally and got some numbers at the stadium, and we realised that there is a huge potential.

The problem is that there are some people who think we don’t want Zulus because our members who fight with President Zuma, they then generalise that Zulus are a problem and the Zulu nation gets offended by that. But as we (talk to) them, we will more and more be able to explain what we represent.

I had overrated our chances in the Western Cape and thought we were going to do well there, but we got one seat. I think we did extremely badly, and we have to find a way of intervening in that province. We need a smart, appealing leadership that is grounded and accepted, especially by the coloured community, and we are in the process of doing that.

On internal leadership

We have done quite a lot of restructuring in the provinces and reduced to 15-member teams because we want an accountable team. We don’t want a permanent mass meeting at the level of leadership.

The masses will not support anyone who has disappointed them, but of course as we have restructured, some people who did not get positions have been offended. It is in human nature, but we must be careful about how we react to this. We mustn’t cut their heads off and destroy them. We must allow them to express their anger.

On ideology

I think our political (stance) is working for us. Our voters are happy and people are beginning to say this is what we want. The stance of the SACP worked for them when Chris Hani was there because he went to the ground and made many people uncomfortable. But when he died, the SACP became a part of the most highly sophisticated intellectuals, speaking the language that people would not understand.

You have to choose the correct language if you want to be a mass party, and what we are doing now is working for us.

The ANC is scared of that because that’s what put them in power.

There is no formula for protest; that’s an elitist idea. We say, when we see an opportunity, why not capture that to get your point across?

On revolution

I am the leader of a revolution. I am not the leader of some sweetheart organisation. That’s why I myself lead from the front not from the Parliamentary benches, and we are going to do everything in our power to get heard by the authorities. The instability that may be created tampers with comfort zones, but the ones who are voting for us say this is the way to go.

We are going to fight until they have to accept there is an alternative party in this country which must be taken seriously.

People want to say, oh, this is so disgusting, but we have been disgusting to you since the day we were born. You are saying nothing new to us.

That’s what makes me sleep at night. I am among fighters not pretenders. Things come from the bottom of the heart.

Now Parliament has the responsibility of discussing real bread and butter issues that affect people on a daily basis and that’s not what they want – they don’t want to talk about things that affect the lives of ordinary people.

Our MP from Marikana speaks so eloquently with no sign of someone who is scared. She is there fighting for her people and she doesn’t care whether the commander-in-chief is there or not. She’s not there to impress Julius Malema

After 20 years of democracy, we finally have an opposition in Parliament.

On the events at the legislature

I saw police shooting at a man in civilian clothes when I was standing outside, next to a pillar, taking shelter and I had to run and carry that man and put him in a car to take him to hospital. These are the things that are not said.

But when the ANC fails to find political solutions, it applies apartheid tactics. That’s what apartheid did to them. We are tired of giving people memorandums and when we leave they throw them into a dustbin and laugh at us.

We didn’t fight with anybody for the past 12 months because there was no need. Now I say, don’t take us for granted. We are not schoolboys. We will not be bullied by the ANC. We have taken a decision that we will bring 50 000 people back here.

Undermining the EFF in Gauteng is undermining the EFF around the country. We are a unitary organisation, we are coming back to fight. The only requirement to get into legislature is that people must vote for you. What more do you want from me?

On the overalls

Why are they refusing the overalls in the legislature when they’ve been accepted in the national Parliament? I was sworn in by the chief justice and he saw nothing wrong. When Zuma spoke and I responded to his speech, I was in an overall.

But here in Gauteng, the ANC has just gifted us a political programme and we welcome it. If the ANC had accepted overalls, today overalls would not have been an issue. People would have been used to that idea. It was no longer going to be fascinating or newsworthy, but the ANC continued to make it newsworthy.

And when they opened their cases against us, every time the EFF goes to court, it’s a rally, a new platform, for us.

We are coming back to Johannesburg with a full force. We have a right to be here. The ANC must allow our people to wear overalls. Why? Because we are raising the consciousness of the workers, we are inspiring the pride of the workers that they too can come and represent themselves in Parliament, but even if they are not there, we have not forgotten about them, which is why we wear their clothes. It will revive the consciousness of the elite.

We must report to our leadership what happened and they must give us the go-ahead to come back, according to provinces. But I’m telling you there will not be any activity in Joburg on that day. They must come and shoot at us, but they can’t kill all of us. You can’t do anything to the masses, especially the unemployed, the neglected and the marginalised. They have nothing to lose but their freedom.

The Star