Until recently I had never heard of either Julius Sello Malema or the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF). A quick crash course in both leads me to believe that if Malema and his party gain popularity, posturing antisemitism will be given status and relevancy in next year’s election. Malema is the Idi Amin of South Africa. Uneducated, and bold in rhetorical violence and viscerally crude, he draws on the emotions of a country with a sordid past. But Malema is not the only problem in South Africa.
Born in Seshego, Limpopo in 1981, Malema was raised by his grandmother. At a young age of 9 (or 10, has not been determined), he joined the African Congress Masupatsela, doing menial jobs. In 1995, and at the age of 14, he was elected Chairperson of the African National Congress Youth Leage (ANCYL) in Seshego –and also as regional chairperson. Two years later he became Chairperson for the Congress of South African Students (COSAS) for Limpopo province. Malema might have done well in community organizations but was an abysmal failure in school. He tried several times to pass High School, but a “C” was the highest mark he achieved in English as a second language. He failed miserably in Math (30%) and could not even master woodwork (below 40%). When the grades were published, the ANCYL alleged fake grading. However, the South African Department of Education confirmed the grades as legitimate and correct. Malema finally managed to graduate from Mohlakeng High school in Seshego, Limpopo in 2010, and later completed a two-year diploma in Youth Development from the University of South Africa.
Malema’s outrageous behavior includes his vile tongue and equally vicious temper. He has assaulted “peers” and has made controversial statements that often landed him in court for hate speech. When in 2008 former president of South Africa Jacob Zuma was prosecuted for fraud, corruption, and rape, Malema claimed that the Youth Leage is not only prepared to take arms for Zuma but to “kill for Zuma”. In 2009, Malema told a group of Cape Town students at a South Africa Student Congress (SASCO) meeting that the Zuma’s rape victim had a “nice time”. This led to a conviction of hate speech, an unconditional apology, a fine, and a stern rebuke from SASCO accusing Malema of abusing the platform that had been given to him. Further accusations of hate speech were hurled at him when in March 2010, at a rally on a university campus he sang Dubul ‘ibhunu, “Shoot the Boer”, a Boer being a farmer or white person. In the early 90’s similar songs were defined as hate speech by the South African Human Rights Commission. This gives one an idea of the disturbing character of Malema who is now president of the EFF, and currently seeking to run in the next 2024 election. In recent conversations with expats currently in South Africa, the dire situation was succinctly described as a political movement that turned from irrelevancy to relatively dangerous. They were not wrong.
During an October 23rd pro-Palestinian protest outside the Tshwane Israeli Embassy, Malema went on a verbal rampage of the familiar Palestinian suffrage and add some. He boasted to the thousands of protestors present, that when elected the EFF will “arm” Hamas to fight for “its freedom”. Thousands listened and cheered as he demanded the closure of the Israeli embassy and the severing of all economic ties with Israel. Through the foam mouthed rhetoric, he called Israelis murderers, while insidiously comparing Mandela to Hamas projecting an even more outrageous idea that Hamas are similar freedom fighters. Some might dismiss him as a lunatic but unfortunately, Malema’s vicious and hateful rhetoric has landed on very eager ears.
Floyd Shivambu, Deputy EFF president backs Malema and reiterates that there was nothing wrong “…with the activities of the Islamic resistance movement (Hamas) in defending Palestinian land against the racist, apartheid and Zionist state of Israel”. To put some perspective about Mr. Shivambu: the Ethics Code of Conduct found Floyd Shivambu guilty of failing to declare earnings from his brother’s company which was involved in the 2018 VBS Bank Scandal. R2Billion was stolen by the bank’s directors, senior executives, and politicians. Another upstanding morally upright character on Malema’s bandwagon but at this point the message is being heard by thousands who seem to agree with these men. A dangerous tide that has the same signature as Europe in the 1930’s
Advocate and member of the Johannesburg Bar Mark Oppenheimer has submitted many cases to the Supreme Court of Appeal and Constitutional Court, in an attempt to determine “boundaries” between freedom of expression and hate speech. Mr. Oppenheimer has also submitted the Hate Speech Bill to Parliament and the UN Committee intended toward the Elimination of Racial Discrimination on Escalating Racial Tensions. Mark Oppenheimer is warning those Jews who in the past supported EFF and or the ANC and contributed financially or through business connections to both, should stop. No Jew should be supporting an open Jew hating organization. This warning was not given in a vacuum. According to The Brenthurst Foundation, an economic think tank, released new polls showing the growing popularity of EFF climbing from 11% to 17% whereas the African National Congress (ANC) falling to 41%, giving a real unnerving possibility of a coalition between these two organizations that support Hamas and terrorism.
Malema goes on record in demanding that academic ties be broken between Israeli and South African universities and universal boycotts against Israeli goods be implemented. He threatened Woolworth and McDonalds with retaliation if they do not remove every Israeli product and everything “apartheid” from their premises. This was followed with a threat of “us” removing them, meaning his avid followers. An incitement to violence by potential thugs.
At one of these many recent protests, South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) reporter Khayelihle Khumalo interviewed the various participants. The venom against Israel and Jews was unprecedented but what was more unprecedented, the lack of either challenging or condemnation from Mr. Khumalo to vicious statements and often downright lies. Among the most disturbing statements was that Israelis do not belong in Israel because they “stole” the land. This protestor encouraged all Arab nations to rise and join in the fight to rid Israel of Israelis. Another while mentioning Jewish Holocaust survivors referred to their descendants as monkeys, “you know, monkeys see as monkeys do, except that monkeys are better”. You’d think that at this point Mr. Khumalo would point out the blatant antisemite remark. Not a twinge. Khayelihe Khumalo’s actually asked what the international community should be doing about “this”, meaning Israel’s crimes!
Interview after interview, the SABC reporter embraced the vile narrative. “They are all lies”, said another protestor referring to the 10/7 atrocities on Jewish men, women, and children. Throughout all of these interviews, Khayelihle sympathized and even empathized with the visceral. Khayelihe even held an impassionate interview with attendee Carl Niehaus, former spokesman to the ANC and Nelson Mandela, and who in 2009 admitted to fraud and feigning the death of his mother to commit more fraud, and was consequently expelled in 2022 from the ANC. During this verbal diatribe, Khayelihle remarked on the great things Niehaus had done against apartheid. In the meantime, the same Niehaus publicly declared his stand against a two-state solution, in lieu of the complete eradication of Israel so as Palestine can be free from “the river to the sea”. Another individual of high moral high standards who commented on the “atrocities” in Gaza and empathetically called for the arming of Hezbollah and Hamas as they resist the “apartheid” state of Israel. If it wasn’t so obscenely disgusting it would be laughable.
The SABC is competing with the BBC as the most antisemitic news organization in the world. Calling Khayelihle Khumalo a journalist is an insult to journalists and journalism. This man is a mouthpiece for the EFF and its anti-Israel and antisemite movement in South Africa. The insult to injury did not end with Carl Niehaus hyperbolic hatred: Khayelihle Khumalo interviewed members of the South African Jews for a Free Palestine (SAJFP) who are demanding a ceasefire in Gaza and also the cutting off of all diplomatic ties with Israel. To put these pinheads into perspective, they were happily led by none other than Leila Khaled, the notorious hijacker of TWA Flight 840 in 1969 from Tel Aviv to Rome, and EL AL Flight 219 in 1970 from Amsterdam to New York City. Leila Khaled is a leader in the terrorist organization Popular Front for Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) who were responsible for the hijackings, the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), and the Palestine National Council (PNC). The PFLP has been responsible for several terror attacks against Israelis in Israel which include a 2014 shooting and meat cleaving attack on a Synagogue in Jerusalem that killed four worshippers, and a 2019 bomb attack that killed 17-year-old Rina Shnerb. This gem of a woman, Leila Khaled, is inspirational to the SAJFP who were present at the protests in Johannesburg. No words.
A member of the SAJFP eagerly cited “bombing of hospitals” which not surprisingly Mr. Khumalo failed to correct the falsehood, and the “genocide” in the colonization of Gaza. She continued enthusiastically her false narrative about colonial domination and the right to return for all Palestinians. “Zionism is fascism” said she with gusto, and antisemitism is “conflated” and used as propaganda for Israeli fascists. She finished her breathless tirade by demanding a full arms embargo against Israel. Mr. Khumalo smiled and waved. SABC should not only be ashamed of what it calls reporting, it should be fined for supporting a narrative that incites hatred toward Jews through fabrication and fake news!
National Chairperson for the South African Jewish Board of Deputies Professor Karen Milner accused Malema of intentionally promoting division through his “trademark” of hateful speech. He is comparing baby killers, rapists, and kidnappers to freedom fighters, referring to his earlier comparisons to Mandela. Milner said that no evidence has ever been found that such barbaric tactics were ever used by freedom fighters. She continued the condemnation by saying that South Africa has strict laws against incitement and threats that lead to violence. But so far little is being done.
Director of public policy for South African Zionist Federation Benji Shulman strongly stated that Hamas is not a “liberation movement” but an internationally recognized terrorist organization. He believes that South African voters will see through the visceral hatred of the EFF and Malema, and that the people will not support a violent extremist hateful party in the next 2024 elections. With due respect Mr. Shulman, I am not so sure of your hypothesis. Malema, Niehaus, Al-Jama, and other radicals are gaining momentum because EFF is providing them with a voice and a platform. Emad Saber, the official representative for Hamas in South Africa, claims that Zionists are against Al-Aqsa and other holy sites, and are out to destroy them. He called upon armed groups to join forces to fight against the “Zionist aggressor”, and also thanked South Africa for its “unwavering support”. This does not seem like the EFF and other hateful groups are not being taken seriously.
On October 20th, Rebecca Hodes a University of Pretoria professor attended an ANC rally. Allegedly it was supposed to be for peace in Gaza, but as soon as the speakers took to the microphones and podiums, they couldn’t help themselves, and incitement to violence against Israel and its presence in South Africa were clearly articulated. Demands for the Israeli Embassy to be removed with a threat that it would be occupied by those in attendance was highlighted by the chant of “Run Israel run to the sea”. As Ms. Hodes observed: the “alleged peaceful intent” of the rally was a blatant “lie”. This was a vicious cry of genocide of Israel and its people through violence.
Executive Director of Cape South African Jewish Board of Deputies said that Jews in South Africa especially in Cape Town are “upset, angry, and frightened”. You think? Right now, Jews are advised to stay away from the protests and keep a low profile. But that does not diminish the unabashed Jew hatred that has risen to the surface or for protestors in the weekend from driving through Jewish neighborhoods. The protests are almost euphoric in their visceral narrative and distortion of truth. But worst of all, as Rebecca Hodes noticed, they erased all the “violence committed against Israelis” on 10/7. The denial of atrocities against Jews is Nazi-like, and the call of eradication of Israel by another nation is equivalent to the “final solution”. South Africa is allowing the call of genocide of a nation and the support to terrorist organizations in their attempt to eradicate a democracy, and the world is quite silent.
“In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies but the silence of our friends.” Martin Luther King Jr
October 2, 2023. VBS scandal haunts EFF’s Floyd Shivambu – Y (yfm.co.za)
Feinberg, Tali. October 26, 2023. EFF promises to arm Hamas (sajr.co.za)
Bhengu. Cebelihle. October 19, 2023. ‘Israel, can’t you see? You are on a killing spree!’: SA Jews for Free Palestine call for ceasefire | News24
Gruzd. Steven. October 26, 2023. ‘Run, Israel, run!’ says hate-filled mob (sajr.co.za)
October 2, 2020. Leila Khaled: In Her Own Words | ADL