According to reports over the Easter weekend, Julius Malema addressed his supporters from the back of an old truck, while the silver buckles of his Louis Vuitton shoes gleamed in the sun. A pair of Louis Vuitton men’s loafers can cost almost R7 000.
Malema has been widely criticised for living a lavish lifestyle despite claiming to be the voice of the poor. In 2010 for example, he was photographed drinking Moët et Chandon Rosé champagne and eating cake at his birthday celebrations, while his supporters, including a large number of elderly people received only water, apples and bananas.
“We don’t want them to stay in shacks, that’s why we can’t stay in shacks,” he told reporters in Johannesburg on Tuesday. “How are you going to inspire them when you are also going to stay in a shack?
“We don’t have to stay in Alexandra to liberate people of Alexandra. They want to get out [of] that situation, they don’t want people to come and join them. That’s stupidity to think like that,” he said.
During his days as African National Congress Youth League leader, Malema was known for his expensive taste in watches, cars and designer clothing.
He has since found himself in financial trouble over the non-payment of taxes. In February, the Pretoria High Court provisionally sequestrated Malema, giving him until 26 May to give reasons as to why this should not be finalised.
According to court documents, Malema owes R16 million-plus interest after failing to submit tax returns between 2006 and 2010.
In 2010, the SA Revenue Service (Sars) contacted Malema about his failure to submit tax returns. It took him 18 months, and many follow-up demands by Sars, to finally file his outstanding returns. He also failed to register the Ratanang Trust for tax purposes, and Sars had to do this on his behalf. Sars then attached some of Malema’s property to recoup the taxes he owed.
Earlier this month, five Economic Freedom Fighter members, launched the JSM Trust to collect funds to settle Malema’s tax bill.
The trust was formed in consultation with a team of professionals, including qualified attorneys, accountants and tax practitioners, all of whom offered their services to the trust free of charge, explained trust chairwoman Mandisa Mashego at the time.
If sequestrated, Malema will not be able to go to parliament should his party get enough votes in the election.
Malema said on Tuesday that the clothes he wore were not an indication of hypocrisy.
“We’ll never stop wearing anything, because your commitment doesn’t derive out of what you wear. It’s about the heart. We have the heart for the poor.”