Malema’s EFF promises investors clarity ahead of May 2024 election

As South Africa’s May 29 election looms, Julius Malema of the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) promises investors clarity and consistency lacking in the ruling ANC. Malema’s controversial policies, including mine nationalization and land expropriation, raise concerns, yet he assures a controlled approach. With the ANC’s support waning, potential coalitions with the EFF or other parties loom. Malema dismisses fears, suggesting alternative markets. Amidst political shifts, investors weigh uncertainty against potential gains in a changing South Africa.

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By Colleen Goko and S’thembile Cele

Julius Malema, leader of South Africa’s leftist Economic Freedom Fighters, says he can offer investors something the country’s current rulers lack: clarity, consistency and transparency.

The EFF is vying to boost its sway in the May 29 election in which the ruling African National Congress may lose its national majority for the first time since 1994.

Malema, 43, acknowledged that investors might fear his party’s policies, which include nationalizing mines and expropriating land without compensation, but says they’d value more certainty.

Julius Malema at the Freedom Fighters party manifesto launch.

“What any investor wants is a clear policy as to what the policy is, and not government speaking in forked tongues,” he said in an interview at Bloomberg’s office in Johannesburg on Wednesday. “Investors leave politics to politicians because they know they’ll still make money if they know and are assured about security and policy.”

Investor jitters over the uncertain election outcome were highlighted earlier on Wednesday, when the rand weakened sharply on news of an opinion poll that showed ANC support collapsing to 37%, compared with the 57.5% the party obtained in the 2019 election. A new party led by former President Jacob Zuma was projected to pick up 13% and the EFF’s share was seen holding at 11%, unchanged from 2019.

Failing to get at least 50% may force the ANC into a coalition to govern. The question facing investors is whether that would be with smaller parties who’d leave the ANC fully in charge and with whom investors are already familiar.

If its loss of support is severe, the ANC might choose to bind with the leftist EFF or Zuma’s party — uMkhonto weSizwe Party, or MKP. Or it could go in the other direction and form a government with the main opposition Democratic Alliance, which says it’s pro-business.

Another poll published by Ipsos last month showed that the EFF might unseat the DA as the official opposition party.

‘Fearmongering’

Malema played down “fearmongering” about what it would mean for businesses and private ownership if the EFF formed part of a coalition government after the vote.

The nationalization of mines, for example, would be a controlled process and would take lessons from neighboring Botswana – which last year struck a deal with De Beers to sell about 30% of the diamond output from its Debswana joint venture with the company, with an agreement for that share to eventually rise to 50%.

“We are not going to take land the Zimbabwean-style or anything of that sort,” he said, referring to often-violent land seizures in the neighboring country that resulted in more than 4,000 farmers losing their farms. “No one is going to be taken to the sea. No one is going to be killed. No one is going to lose his property on the basis of color.”

He acknowledged that foreign investors might be skeptical and the rand may suffer “an attack” from capital flight.

“It will not be for the first time that the capitalists want to impose themselves on people through disinvestment,” he said in a separate interview with Jennifer Zabasajja on Bloomberg Television.

“The only thing is do you have alternative markets when they disinvest — China is more than willing to come in. Russia is more than willing to come in,” he said.

One possible condition the EFF has floated for joining a coalition is having someone from its ranks appointed as minister of finance.

Malema sharply criticized the current finance department, which he said is “not aligned” with South Africa’s development needs.

“It is not controlled from Pretoria,” he said. “It’s controlled from Stellenbosch.” The town, in the heart of the winelands in the Western Cape province, is home to some of the country’s wealthiest families and White-owned businesses.

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