'To attack Zuma is to attack the revolution'
‘We will kill and die for Jacob Zuma”, ANC Youth League leader Julius Malema told a Youth Day rally—prompting a complaint to the Human Rights Commission and the laying of intimidation and contempt of court charges. Matuma Letsoalo asked Malema: Isn’t the league just a bunch of young hooligans?
Given the recent violence in South Africa, wasn’t your statement highly irresponsible?
We never said the charges against Jacob Zuma must be dropped or else we would kill people. We said there is a consistent, uncalled-for attack on the ANC president and the ANC as an organisation, especially after Polokwane. People think the youth is not politically conscious and will do nothing. This is a message of warning—if you think we are asleep, you must know we are watching this agenda and we’re prepared to die in defence of the leadership and the revolution.
It would be irresponsible of any leader, including myself, to call for taking up arms now. We are not saying we must attack the courts; we are assembling a legal team to take the matter to court. But politically we will do everything in our power to defend Zuma. We are saying if that possibility presents itself in future, it will find us ready. We are saying [to these forces] before you even reach Jacob Zuma, you will reach us first.
What are these “forces”?
The forces we defeated in 1994, the ultra-rightwing, the imperialists, and the colonisers. They have come together to undermine the ushering in of a democratic dispensation. They do this by projecting the ANC leadership as the most corrupt people, who are lazy, who are womanisers, who are drunkards, who want money that comes easily without hard work. We can’t allow that to happen.
So at what point would you take up arms?
That point will present itself. But for now we think everything is still in order; state institutions are still intact. We have confidence in them and the ANC leadership; in the whole process. But people shouldn’t think that because we respect the law our militancy has vanished.
Hasn’t your statement fuelled perceptions that the league is run by a bunch of hooligans?
The youth league is the most disciplined, organised youth formation in the country. It is the only organisation that organised its own youth celebration [on June 16] across South Africa. We are an organisation of militant and radical young people who always raise issues with passion. People confuse that passion with recklessness.
Would a past leader of the ANCYL, such as Nelson Mandela, have made such a statement?
We are leading the youth league now and we have to provide leadership. Our statement is just a demonstration of a point that we are losing patience. It cannot be that one individual faces trial for seven years.
Aren’t you interfering with the independence of the judiciary by calling for charges to be dropped?
It’s not interference. We’re approaching the courts like any other person; we have a right to do that. We’re saying to the state: you said there is no winnable case against Zuma. Why do you want to continue on this matter? What is the agenda?
Don’t you think the courts are best placed to say the case is unwinnable?
They’re saying they don’t have a case but they want to prosecute. You can’t say that to a court.
What evidence do you have that there is no case against Zuma?
Justice delayed is justice denied: a fair trial means the ability to charge and prosecute within a reasonable time. Zuma has never enjoyed his freedom in the past seven years. Also, you are prolonging the divisions in the country. When you charge a state president, are you not going to divide the country? Zuma is the coming state president—that is unavoidable.
Aren’t you in fact compromising Zuma by indicating that his supporters have no respect for the law?
Not at all. When you demand that the case must be struck off the roll, it doesn’t mean you don’t respect the law. You are simply saying given the circumstances, you don’t think there is anything to be answered.
Do you regret your statement?
No, I stand by it. I never said people should take up arms and kill. I said if the need arises we will do so in defence of this freedom. We will say that many times to emphasise our love, commitment and passion for this revolution and its leadership. An attack on Zuma is a direct attack on this revolution.