EFF leader Julius Malema gave a defiant tribute to former Zimbabwe president Robert Mugabe, who he called a “patriot”, at a memorial service held by the party on Thursday.
“For so long we have been told by the white man who we should and should not celebrate. Murderers such as former president [FW] de Klerk are honoured and given Nobel prizes while we are constantly told that we should not celebrate our black revolutionaries such as Robert Mugabe,” Malema said.
“They can keep their [FW] de Klerk, we will keep our Mugabe.”
Malema said it was fitting that the memorial – held at Orlando East Communal Hall in Soweto – was on the same day on which South Africa commemorated the 42nd anniversary of the death of “one of its true sons of the soil” Steve Biko.
He said Mugabe, like Biko, was “a towering figure in the revolution” which his own party sought to emulate.
Addressing the contentious land reform project that the Zimbabwean government, under the leadership of Mugabe, undertook, Malema said: “Like a patriot, Mugabe delayed his land reform project until such a time as South Africa and most African countries had gained their independence.”
“He did this because he knew if he had undertaken the project earlier it would have led to protracted colonialism on other African states,” said a passionate Malema.
He said should people continue to find fault in Mugabe and how he led, South Africa should also shoulder the blame for this since “Mugabe cut his teeth in politics in South Africa while he was a student at the University of Fort Hare where he interacted with other political heavyweights who also went on to lead their respective countries”.
Malema also took the opportunity to call for calm amid ongoing xenophobic violence in South Africa, going as far as saying the same Zimbabweans “you are calling foreigners will one day employ you”.
He said “when sanctions are finally lifted, Zimbabweans will own their own banks, the land they live in, mines and retail stores”.
“Those driving so-called foreigners from South Africa have nothing to show as this country belongs to the white men. You cannot celebrate Nelson Mandela but refuse to celebrate Mugabe,” said a livid Malema.
The communal hall was packed to the rafters with EFF supporters eating out of their leader’s palm.
Zimbabwean politician and former minister of local government, rural development and national housing, Saviour Kasukuwere was also in attendance.
Accompanying him was Mugabe’s nephew, and former Zimbabwe minister of public service, labour and social welfare, Patrick Zuwao.
An emotional Zhuwao said he had been instructed by former Zimbabwe First Lady Grace Mugabe to give a message saying that “[Zimbabwean President] Emmerson Mnangagwa and his administration were trying – by all means – to force upon the Mugabe family instructions on where the former president was going to be buried”.
He also claimed that Mugabe was forced by Mnangagwa’s administration to leave Zimbabwe against his will and go and live in Singapore.
“He was not in hospital that entire time, he was living in a rented house and only went to hospital five days before he passed away,” said Zhuwao.
He accused the new administration of trying to hijack proceedings and painting a false impression that the former elder statesman had been well taken care of.
Zhuwao himself escaped arrest when Mugabe was removed through a military coup in 2017 and said he was still barred from attending his uncle’s funeral.
Zhuwao’s mother, Sabina Mugabe, who passed away in 2008 was Mugabe’s sister.