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No evidence Limpopo province-born South African politician Julius Malema is actually from Zimbabwe

IN SHORT: A photo of a group of young men keeps popping up on Facebook in South Africa, with the claim it shows opposition politician Julius Malema and that he is originally from Zimbabwe. But there is no evidence for this – or that the pic even shows the firebrand.

A screenshot image has been gaining traction on social media in South Africa in the early days of 2023, despite being at least a year old. It is posted with the claim it shows opposition politician Julius Malema as a youngster. 

It was originally published on Facebook on 21 December 2021 with the caption, in Afrikaans, that “Hierdie Klein snotkop is ’n Zimbabwian”. This poorly spelled attempt at an insult means “this little snothead is a Zimbabwean”. 

Malema leads the Economic Freedom Fighters, or EFF, a political party which describes itself as a “radical and militant economic emancipation movement”. He has also been a member of the South African parliament since 2014. He led the ruling African National Congress’s Youth League from 2008 until he was expelled from the ANC in 2011

The screenshot appears to be of another Facebook post, showing a photo of five young black men. One of them, wearing a white cap, is circled in red, and resembles Malema. Text at the top of the screenshot reads: “Border jumper who wants to make decisions on SA land now?”

A caption below the photo reads “Infamous refugee from Zimbabwe now a political leader in South Africa, Julius Malema”. The image has been reposted over 400 times, and was also posted elsewhere in February and September 2022

Malema and the EFF call for radical land reform. They have also been criticised for stoking xenophobia, or the hatred of foreigners, though the party has denied these charges and condemned violence against immigrants in South Africa. 

It would be surprising if Malema hailed from South Africa’s northern neighbour, Zimbabwe. So is it true?


No evidence despite a life in the public eye

Malema has been in the public eye since he was a teenager, reportedly joining the youth wing of the ANC, either as young as nine or by the age of 13, in South Africa’s impoverished northern province of Limpopo. 

It has been widely reported that he was born in Limpopo in 1981 to a single mother. Books about his life and the establishment of the EFF in 2013 have recorded the same biography. 

It’s highly unlikely that he could or would have hidden the fact, had he been born in Zimbabwe. There is no evidence for this. 

There are also many photos available of Malema as a young man in South Africa. We could not find the original Facebook post or photo in the screenshot, but this clip from a montage of photos of Malema as a teenager shows him in a white cap and a similar shirt. 

The same photo has also been posted by an official EFF Facebook page and used to illustrate newspaper articles about Malema. Judging by the comments on Facebook, it was taken at an ANC conference when Malema was a teenager, which would have been in the 1990s. It could have been taken at the same time as the photo in the screenshot on Facebook. 

The photo in the screenshot may show Malema, though we can’t prove or disprove this definitively. But if it does, it is not proof that he and the four other young men pictured were “refugees” or “border jumpers” from Zimbabwe. There is no evidence for the claim that Malema is Zimbabwean and this old screenshot and old false claim should be ignored.

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