Two leading South African politicians — a Communist government minister and a radical party chief — were under fire on Wednesday for hypocrisy over their claims to champion the poor while living elite lifestyles.
Newly-appointed Agriculture Minister and South African Communist Party official Senzeni Zokwana was accused of grossly underpaying a farmworker who looked after his cattle.
And firebrand lawmaker Julius Malema, “Commander-in-Chief” of the Economic Freedom Fighters, admitted he would shun government schools and hospitals for his family — despite campaigning for their use by all officials.
Zokwana reportedly paid his cattle herder 800 rand (less than $80) a month, while the minimum wage is 2,420 rand.
The powerful Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu), which is part of a tripartite alliance with the Communist Party and the ruling African National Congress, rapped “comrade Zokwana” on the knuckles and called on him to pay up.
Commentators on social media were more scathing.
“So this #Zokwana was busy organising & leading strikes against poor pay whilst he’s the worst payer of slavery wages. Tlk abt double stdards,” tweeted @Senwamadi.
Farmers, mostly whites who still own the bulk of farmland despite the end of the racist apartheid system 20 years ago, are regularly targeted by the government over conditions and pay for their workers.
Malema, who describes himself in his Twitter profile as “a Revolutionary activist for radical change in Africa” also took flak online for his about-face since his election to parliament last month.
He was a “big liar”, tweeted @Tebu_mokhali.
Malema and his newly-elected band of 25 lawmakers attended the opening of parliament wearing overalls, Wellington boots and hard hats to symbolise their solidarity with the working class.
But he told Wednesday’s Star newspaper that his eight-year-old son would not attend “dysfunctional and poor” public schools and that he would hold on to his medical aid, giving him access to private healthcare.
“Why must I subject my child to poor education when people who are in power don’t do it?” he asked. “Why must I be the first one to commit suicide?”
Malema once lead the ANC’s youth wing, but was booted from the party for insubordination in 2012.