HARARE – Populist South African politician Julius Malema yesterday offered solidarity to Zimbabwean protesters who have led national strikes against President Robert Mugabe’s economic policies that have closed businesses and crippled the public transport system.
The left-wing Malema, who led the ruling ANC’s youth wing until his expulsion for ill-discipline in 2012 and now leads SA’s vocal opposition Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) party, said Zimbabwean protestors will triumph in the ongoing protests just like they did in their 70s fight against the white minority government that ushered in independence in 1980.
“We are on the side of the people of Zimbabwe, never be governed by fear. The people always win like you did in the 80’s, victory is certain,” Malema tweeted yesterday.
Malema has struck a chord with impoverished SA blacks frustrated by the slow pace of change 20 years after the end of apartheid, and angered by perceptions of corruption among the governing elite.
The ongoing Zimbabwean strike follows days of unrest over the government’s failure to pay civil servants’ salaries, a currency shortage, import restrictions and multiple police road blocks reportedly extorting cash from motorists.
Zimbabwean preacher Evan Mawarire, who is leading the protests, was initially facing charges of inciting public violence relating to his calls for “stay at home” protests against Mugabe, but was hit with a further charge for attempting to subvert a constitutionally-elected government when he appeared in court yesterday.
Mawarire, whose social media movement has rattled the 92-year-old Mugabe’s administration, spent the night in police cells after officers searched his house, church and office in the capital Harare as part of their investigations.
Mugabe’s government has delayed pay dates for civil servants as treasury funds run short after years of economic decline, worsened by a severe drought which has hit agriculture.
Formed just three years ago, Malema’s EFF won 6 percent of the vote at national polls in 2014 to become the third largest party and the second largest in opposition.
The radical left party has collected large chunks of support in working class areas, and is seen likely to gain further ground in forthcoming polls after scoring several political victories and championing economic causes such as mine nationalisation and redistribution of land.-Dailynews