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Firebrand Malema chastises ANC: people ‘can’t eat T-shirts’

Rabble-rouser Julius Malema poured scorn on the ruling ANC as he cast his ballot in South Africa’s general election on Wednesday, declaring that voters can’t eat free campaign T-shirts.

“It has not been difficult to perform because of the rot in the ANC,” he said after queuing for 45 minutes to vote at his primary school in Seshego, a former blacks-only township in the north of the country.

“We have done our work. Now the ball is in the court of South Africa,” he said, flanked by his grandmother Sarah Mathebu Malema.

The 33-year-old ex-ANC cadre founded his Economic Freedom Fighters party less than a year ago and has quickly become a force in South African politics.

Known for its flamboyant red berets, the party has gained wide traction among especially young black South Africans impatient with the slow pace of change in a country where over a quarter of the population are jobless.

Malema, who was expelled from the ruling party last year, has called for the nationalisation of mines — a key sector in the economy — and the expropriation of white-owned farms without compensation.

But Malema has had a rocky time with corruption and tax scandals that may yet make it difficult for him to take up a seat in parliament.

On Wednesday he defied his detractors, saying he remained a force to be reckoned with.

“I’m still standing,” he said. “Many people expected to see me standing on my knees crying,” he said. “We are here to stay in South African politics.”

He also warned poor South Africans against falling for election gimmicks or vote buying.

“People must remember: they will not eat T-shirts.”

Malema vowed to respect the election results if the vote is conducted fairly.

EFF supporter Abel Phofu said he had become disillusioned with the African National Congress after 20 years of broken promises.

He said he believed Malema was innocent of the charges against him, which include allegations of rigging a government contract and court orders over tax evasion of $1.5 million.

“Julius is my homeboy. I love him very much,” he told AFP.

“In the EFF I hope to get a job, a permanent job, a decent job, as they have promised,” he said.

“Maybe if it gets in parliament I will get something. Maybe.”