'We are inspired by those revolutionaries'
Julius Malema's political party, the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF), has adopted the red beret as its signature headgear.
The beret was popularised by left-leaning revolutionaries such as Che Guevara, who led the overthrow of the Batista regime in Cuba; Hugo Chavez, who introduced sweeping socialist reforms in Venezuela; and Burkina Faso's Thomas Sankara, a Pan-Africanist, Marxist revolutionary who was assassinated in the late 1980s.
Malema, who sees himself as following in the footsteps of these revolutionaries, says the beret is an important symbol of the radical socioeconomic reforms the EFF wants to bring to the country, as well as a symbol ofits respect for leaders who led similar revolutions in their own countries.
"We are inspired by those revolutionaries. We are inspired by Thomas Sankara; he used to wear a beret as well."
He said the red berets also represented the struggles of millions of South Africans who work the land for little or no remuneration.
"Red is the blood of our people, which continues to be spilt all over the mines and working places in the farms. And those people, the reason their blood continues to be spilt like that is because they are fighting for their own economic emancipation. We need to continue to honour them.''
About 1200 delegates who attended the EFF's launch in Soweto yesterday were given a red T-shirt and a red beret.
He said they would undertake a print order after the launch to make the T-shirts and berets available to supporters and others who identify with their cause.
"By and large, we are going to sell [them] as a way of raising money for the EFF," Malema said.