EFF leader Julius Malema had Twitter buzzing about something other than coronavirus on Sunday evening after he shared a simple photo of himself with Transport Minister Fikile Mbalula laughing together.
They were at DJ Black Coffee’s 44th birthday party.
Brothers ???? pic.twitter.com/9MCeRcUWg9
— Julius Sello Malema (@Julius_S_Malema) March 15, 2020
It would have been unremarkable if not for the fact that the two men share a complicated history and have not often been seen together in recent years.
Mbalula was the head of the ANC Youth League before being succeeded by Malema in 2008.
Mbalula has in the past opened up about the fact that he defended Malema before the now EFF commander-in-chief was expelled from the ANC in 2012 for bringing the party into disrepute. Mbalula felt the expulsion was a mistake.
“The fact of the matter is that today we are here. Some of those leaders who presided over his expulsion are at the helm of the ANC and they say [to Malema] come back. It is time to think about this,” Mbalula said in 2018. Malema poured cold water on any suggestions that he would ever return to the ANC.
However, the two have also had a few spats and twars over the years, including when Malema last year threatened to share pictures of Mbalula that would supposedly have made him “regret the day [he was] born”.
This came in response to Mbalula tweeting a picture of Malema in a purple suit and hat, with sunglasses. Mbalula claimed it was a “sauce picture” that could “destabilise” people’s aunts.
In 2018 Malema said: “Mbalula is a hard worker; you can’t take that away from him. He might have his weaknesses of wanting to behave like a celebrity and all of that, but give the guy a job and he will do it.”
He expressed his doubts that Mbalula had been the right choice as the police minister, but in the correct position he would always be a hard worker and deliver.
Malema shared that he had been in touch with Mbalula and others in the ANC during the cabinet reshuffle in 2018 that saw Mbalula getting fired from Cabinet.
He warned Mbalula not to behave in a manner that would discredit him in future.
In his turn, Mbalula acknowledged that Malema had often had tough things to say about him, but he still respected his former comrade for never “being fake or plastic”.
“He attacks me a lot. He tells me things I don’t like.”
Nevertheless, he said he respected Malema for his forthrightness and that he, Mbalula, preferred to be someone who could be criticised for taking a position instead of always merely going with the flow.
Malema also once opened up about how he supposedly helped Mbalula get into Cabinet in the first place.
Malema said in a radio interview that he’d used his then close relationship with then president Jacob Zuma to plead for Mbalula to join others in parliament after Zuma expressed his intentions to exclude Mbalula. According to Malema, even one of Zuma’s daughters was involved in persuading the president to include Mbalula.
(Compiled by Charles Cilliers)