JULIUS Malema may be in trouble with the ANC, but the embattled ANC Youth League leader yesterday proved popular with striking workers.
The strikers almost caused a stampede as they scrambled to catch a glimpse of him when he joined the anti-labour-broking and e-toll march in Johannesburg.
Scores of workers behind him pushed forward to get closer to Malema. At one point he had to be whisked into a vehicle 'for his safety'.
Workers demanded that Cosatu leaders allow Malema to address them outside the Department of Labour offices in Braamfontein as well as outside Premier Nomvula Mokonyane's office in central Johannesburg.
Some sections of the crowd chanted a song that suggested Malema, who has been expelled from the ANC, "is going nowhere". After union leaders relented, Malema did not disappoint. He called for a total war against labour brokers and the dismantling of tollgates.
But Cosatu president Sdumo Dlamini, who was leading a march in KwaZulu-Natal, was not impressed.
Without mentioning Malema by name, he told workers there that people who have problems with the ANC should not run to the trade union federation for support, because that would divide the two million-member ANC tripartite alliance partner.
He said it happened in Johannesburg, where an ANC member had used the union's march for his own politicking.
Malema told the marchers he did not want to speak for long as the protest was a Cosatu event - but marchers would hear none of it.
"We are here to support a Cosatu march and the general secretary will address all of us. I am not going to speak for long because this is a Cosatu event," he said.
A memorandum was delivered to the Department of Labour, and then the march descended to Mokonyane's office. After Mokonyane had accepted the memorandum, the workers interrupted her while addressing them, chanting "Juju! Juju! Juju!"