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South Africa’s Malema demands ‘real freedom’ for blacks

Populist South African leader Julius Malema presented a typically fiery manifesto for upcoming elections to a stadium packed with supporters on Saturday, calling for “real freedom” for the black majority.

“Now it’s time to bring bread on the table,” the 31-year-old told a crowd of 30,000 supporters, reprising his demands for the seizure of farms from white owners and the nationalisation of mines.

The leader of the Economic Freedom Front (EFF) is infamous for his controversial statements, and has used a spate of miners’ strikes to attack the ruling African National Congress, which booted him from its ranks two years ago.

“Juju”, as he is known, called for better access to water, electricity and jobs in his speech Saturday at a stadium in Tembisa, a mainly black township outside Johannesburg, denouncing what he called the “slave wages” of ordinary blacks.

Malema’s inflammatory statements have gained currency in a country with seven million unemployed. Twenty years on from the end of apartheid, South Africa’s “black people are still not free,” he said.

“We have the responsibility to end the pain of our people, we are saying enough is enough, now it’s time for economic freedom… time to rescue South Africa from deep levels of inequality.”

He promised to create more positions at universities, lower taxes, raise pensions and give priority to the hiring of blacks.

“You must no longer be ashamed,” he told the crowd.

He also reiterated his support for gold miners, who have been on strike over wages for the past month, and whom Malema visited on a recent tour to drum up opposition to the government.

The EFF was created in 2012 after Malema and his allies were kicked out of the ANC for criticising the party leadership.

The ANC, in power since the end of white-minority rule in 1994, is almost certain to win elections on May 7, giving President Jacob Zuma a new five-year term. But it faces growing frustration from voters and increased competition from opposition parties.

Malema called on his supporters “not to fight with anyone” amid fears of clashes with the ANC Youth League, which he used to lead and which was holding a meeting nearby.

He also called for special tribunals and sentences of 20 years’ imprisonment to deal with corruption cases.

Malema was himself issued an arrest warrant on Friday in relation to allegations that he has funded a wealthy lifestyle through corruption.

He denies the charges and says they are politically motivated.