Julius Malema's allies have warned that anarchy will be unleashed if the former ANC Youth League president is detained.
Allies of Malema who were suspended from the ANC Youth League leadership earlier this year – as well as current members of the league's national executive committee – have warned that the country's youth will rebel and unleash mass action if the expelled former youth league president is arrested.
This comes in a week when Malema spoke openly about alleged threats to kill or arrest him. Malema's closest ally, Floyd Shivambu, the youth league's suspended former spokesperson, told the Mail & Guardian this week that Malema, suspended youth league secretary general Sindiso Magaqa and himself were no longer sleeping at their homes because they feared being attacked.
Shivambu said state security agency sources had told them the plan to deal with them had been hatched in the upper echelons of government and that the options were narrowed down to "arrest or kill". But he said Malema did not fear arrest because he knew he had no case to answer.
"We're not worried about arrest; we'll not run away," Shivambu said.
Malema is under investigation for various contracts that a company linked to him, On-Point Engineering, entered into with the Limpopo government. The South African Revenue Service is also probing his tax affairs.
The police had threatened to arrest him for incitement after he addressed striking mineworkers at Marikana in North West and called for weekly strikes in the mining sector.
This week again there were unconfirmed rumours that the Hawks were about to arrest him. Malema retorted that he was used to stories about his arrest being run every time he was in the public arena.
Government spokesperson Mac Maharaj said the state was not interested in responding to Malema's accusations.
Two members of the youth league's national executive committee, speaking anonymously to the M&G this week, said the youth would unleash anarchy if state resources were "abused" to arrest Malema.
"On what basis would he be arrested? What has he done wrong with tenders in Limpopo? When there are limitations in society you can't stop people from addressing any section of society," said one of the members.
"Julius has lots of support from youth who don't rely on patronage from the ANC. They are not MECs, mayor or ministers. The youth are angry and they will go out in numbers. Young people will lead the mass action and they have lots of energy. And young people will not be peaceful …
"We know that the security cluster has allocated five people to follow him wherever he goes and this surveillance has not even been approved by a judge," the member said.
Another youth league executive committee member said the youth would "support Julius because he is now playing in the public space, not just the ANC. He is saying the masses will liberate this country and having led the economic freedom march to Pretoria he knows we will be there with him all the way."
Shivambu denied that the Friends of the Youth League were preparing a campaign to play the victim card and to portray Malema as a martyr, in the way that President Jacob Zuma's supporters did when he faced investigation in 2005 and 2006.
"We are not desperate for political attention. We happen to understand what people on the ground are saying," Shivambu said. "Wherever we have addressed meetings it's been because people have called on us to do so. We can't even make it to all the places where people need us."
Shivambu vowed that the mass mobilisation campaign would continue despite the supposed threats: "We will continue with our programme; it will not stop. The aim of all these threats is to silence us because we are the only ones who are relevant, who people can identify with."
Shivambu is a leader of the Friends of the Youth League, whose membership and funding is a mystery, although it appears to be a cover for current youth league members to support Malema without fear of disciplinary action from the ANC.
Malema appears to believe that his actions enjoy the support of many in the ANC leadership who are opposed to Zuma's presidency.
He has insisted on many occasions that Zuma will be removed as president at the ANC's year-end Mangaung elective conference and that his membership will be restored.
The president of the Congress of the People Youth Movement, Ncaba Bhanga, promised that the organisation would defend Malema if he was arrested.
"This is not about Malema," said Bhanga. "It is about the ruling party using state resources to suppress dissenting views [in the build-up to] its Mangaung conference. Malema has done nothing wrong."