While the ANC celebrated President Jacob Zuma's birthday at Luthuli House, league president Julius Malema faced the appeals committee.
The scene that unfolded at ANC headquarters on Thursday was reminiscent of something straight out of a broken home.
Luthuli House was divided in two parts.
President Jacob Zuma as the father figure was sipping on champagne and eating cake to celebrate his 70th birthday on the ground floor of the revolutionary house, while the petulant child, youth league leader Julius Malema, was fighting for his political life upstairs on the sixth floor.
In the latest episode in the unending disciplinary action against the Malema and other league members, the national disciplinary committee of appeals (NDCA) of the ANC were due to begin hearing arguments against the expulsion the controversial figure was handed down in February.
Malema arrived at the hearing flanked by league secretary general Sindiso Magaqa and spokesperson Floyd Shivambu.
Without his lawyers present, Malema said the NDCA had not given adequate documentation detailing the committee’s ruling on the firebrand’s suspension, and asked for an immediate postponement of proceedings.
When the NDCA turned down the request, Malema submitted a request to introduce a new legal representative. THe NDCA approved this on the condition that the lawyer be available within the hour. Advocate Muzi Sikhakhane appeared for Malema, Magaqa and Shivambu but requested he be given a chance to familiarise himself with the heads of argument.
The NDCA, led by chairperson Cyril Ramaphosa, on Thursday afternoon, agreed to postpone the hearing on condition that Sikhakhane submits the heads of arguments by April 18. “The parties have agreed that the appeal will proceed through written submissions rather than oral hearing,” said Ramaphosa.
He said once a decision is taken, a public announcement will be made “in line with the directives of the ANC constitution”.
At the same time around 100 national executive committee members, government ministers, party employees and journalists sipped on champagne and enjoyed cake, while Zuma was being showered with praise and admiration.
“I don’t believe you’re 70. With the energy you have you could easily live another 70. We wish you many more. We need your energy, wisdom and experience in the ANC,” said ruling party secretary general Gwede Mantashe.
A seemingly bashful Zuma responded by giving an energetic speech about his willingness to soldier on for the cause of making South Africa a better place.
“I can’t believe I am so close to my own centenary—At 70 I feel very young and energised. I can still travel a long distance and make a contribution under the direction of my movement to do whatever I can to improve the quality of life for our people,” said Zuma.
The president also included some gentle jibes about the lost youth of some comrades who were “mere children” when he first met them.
“It is at such an occasion that you know you have comrades who make you feel remembered, that let you know you exist.”
Only a veiled comment from Zuma let on what was unfolding a couple of floors above.
“People ask me how I live so long and it’s simple: a good heart. Don’t hate people, just be nice. Even if something bad happens, put it aside, walk ahead and wish your enemy good luck,” Zuma said.
It would seem luck is all that Malema can count on as Zuma elegantly positions himself for re-election as ANC president at the upcoming Mangaung conference this December.
For the moment it’s Zuma who is having his cake and eating it, while Malema is force fed humble pie.