Julius Malema
Rainmakers & Potstirrers

Julius Malema

COMMANDER-IN-CHIEF: Economic Freedom Fighters


Get our rainmakers & potstirrers app now
‘The EFF is going to be the government and when the EFF is in government, we are going to defeat poverty, inequality, unemployment, crime’

THE firebrand leader of South Africa’s third-largest political party kept himself in the limelight in 2023. The 10th anniversary celebrations in July of the party he founded, the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF), known as the ‘red berets’, included a packed rally at the FNB Stadium in Soweto. Malema used the occasion to stoke his populist brand of racial politics, leading the crowd in a chant of ‘Kill the boer, kill the farmer’. For the mining sector, Malema’s calls for nationalisation have the power of unnerving foreign investors.

While his party’s prospects of winning power at national level are limited, to say the least, the EFF is still expected to win between 9% and 18% of the vote in this year’s national election. It won 10.8% in 2019. The party’s main impact is as a coalition partner at local government level, where it has often proved an unreliable player. Malema’s critics label him a fascist as he attempts to tap swelling discontent among the poor black majority in the face of glaring failures by the ruling African National Congress (ANC). The EFF is an ANC breakaway and has certainly cost the party of Nelson Mandela votes; most polls show the ANC falling below 50% in 2024 for the first time since it gained power in 1994.

Still, there are limits to Malema’s appeal: an attempt to stage a national shutdown in March turned into a damp squib as few people heeded the EFF’s calls to stay home. South Africans who are fortunate enough to have a job are hardly going to miss a day’s pay in a low-growth economy with an unemployment rate of over 30%.


Malema cut his political teeth in the ANC’s Youth League, becoming national leader in 2008. A once strident supporter of disgraced former South African president Jacob Zuma, he had a spectacular falling out with him that led to Malema’s expulsion from the ANC in 2012. Malema then founded the EFF, an ultra-left party that wants to nationalise the economy, with a focus on land and the mining and banking sectors. Like many  ANC members, Malema has a long list of corruption and looting allegations against him.

More Rainmakers & Potstirrers