EFF leader Julius Malema and deputy president Floyd Shivambu. Picture: RUSSELL ROBERTS
EFF leader Julius Malema and deputy president Floyd Shivambu. Picture: RUSSELL ROBERTS

THE editor-in-chief of The New Age newspaper and television network Africa News Network (ANN7), Moegsien Williams, labelled Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) leader Julius Malema on Thursday the Donald Trump of South African politics.

Billionaire Mr Trump is vying to represent the Republican party in this year’s presidential election in the US and is well known for his chauvinism, immodesty and lack of political tact.

At a news conference called to respond to President Jacob Zuma’s offer to pay back part of the money used to upgrade his Nkandla homestead, Mr Malema tore into the media house — owned by the Gupta family — saying it was a "cartel and a mafia" and a propaganda machine for the president.

He said the media house was no longer welcome at EFF functions as the party could no longer ensure employees’ safety.

"We are not tampering with media freedom — those institutions are products of corruption. That is not media; that is a propaganda machine of a corrupt cartel."

Mr Williams called for "freedom-loving democrats" to condemn Mr Malema’s utterances. He said the leader of the third-largest party in Parliament had failed to uphold the Constitution.

The South African National Editors Forum (Sanef) and media analysts issued warnings over media freedom on Thursday.

"The EFF is entitled to its views about media owners, but should allow journalists to conduct their work without fear and in a climate conducive to the free exchange of information," Sanef said.

"Freedom of the media and freedom of expression are enshrined in our Constitution and should be respected by the EFF. A diverse media is essential for a robust and healthy democracy."

Political analyst Daniel Silke said the EFF was free to both criticise media coverage and the Guptas’ political links. The EFF also had a right to expose the threat to media freedom posed by the acquisition of media houses. However, "they crossed the line in threatening the safety of journalists … and that threat has serious constitutional consequences".

Media Monitoring Africa director William Bird said the EFF’s position was likely to be less about issues of ownership and transformation and more about politics.

"It could be self-defeating on a bigger level, broader scale and, perhaps more concerning, what does it tell us about the relationship between politics and media freedom?" said Mr Bird.

This is not Mr Malema’s first experience with banning media. In 2010, he kicked a BBC journalist out of a media conference and labelled him a "bastard" and an "agent" during question time.