Africa

Malema in Zim: Fighting for the right to party

Jason Moyo

Former ANC Youth League president Julius Malema offered his usual rhetoric while enjoying a weekend of socialising in Zimbabwe.

Julius Malema arrives at a rally organised by the Zanu-PF Youth League in Harare wearing party regalia. (Jekesai Njikizana, AFP)

Zanu-PF's wealthy young Turks rolled out the red carpet for Julius Malema last weekend in a visit marked by partying, an assault on journalists and a declaration that he was ready to shed blood to take back what is owed to black people.

There was also a lecture on why it is better to have many children rather than many wives.

A group of wealthy young supporters of President Robert Mugabe hung about Malema all weekend, partying at a private venue and a top nightclub and accompanying him to the wedding of two Zanu-PF Youth League leaders.   

Several Range Rovers formed part of Malema's convoy and a close friend of his – the brother of Empowerment Minister Saviour Kasukuwere – drove the former ANC Youth League leader around in one of the SUVs.

On Saturday, as Malema and his crew dined at a popular outdoor ­ethnic-food restaurant, journalists who tried to approach the group were shoved away by his bodyguards.

Stanley Gama, editor of the independent Daily News, said his reporter and photographer were attacked by Malema's "goons". The photographer had his camera's memory card seized after he took photos of Malema. A report was made to the police, Gama said.

Zimbabwe Union of Journalists general secretary Foster Dongozi condemned "the violence imported from South Africa through Malema's bodyguards". He demanded an ­apology and that Bethule Nkiwane's memory card be returned.

Access to information
The union has lodged a complaint with the South African embassy in Harare and said it would raise the matter with Pansy Tlakula, the African Commission on Human and People's Rights' special rapporteur on access to information and freedom of expression.

But the journalists' protests did not bother Malema. Hours later, he was at the wedding of Zanu-PF Youth League leaders Mike Gava and Tendai Wenyika at Zimbabwe Gardens in a Harare suburb.

There, in a checked Burberry shirt and a blue jacket, he said was "an unemployed fellow who got fired from work", but he and his "friendly forces here in Zimbabwe" gave the couple $6 000 as a gift.

Mines and farms had to be taken back without compensation, Malema said, even if it meant shedding blood. "We will never do that [pay compensation]. Little did they know that we are not scared of blood. We don't want to be defeated, but seeing blood is not what we are scared of. As long as that blood delivers what belongs to us, we are prepared to go to that extent."

Malema could not resist taking a dig at his nemesis, President Jacob Zuma. "You must never be ashamed of having many kids. You must be ashamed of having many wives. Having many wives spreads diseases because they are unprotected."

Radical struggle
Malema said he was continuing the "radical struggle" of Nelson Mandela and Mugabe. "President Mugabe ushered in political freedom; president Mandela ushered in political freedom – and they are relying on the young ones to continue with the struggle. We are not going to disappoint them."  

He said he had not come to Zimbabwe to escape his legal problems at home, where he faces money-laundering charges linked to a R52-million tender awarded to On-Point Engineering.

"I will never run away from South Africa; I will never run away from problems. Problems are my life. Running away from problems will be like running away from my life.

"We came here just to seek inspiration and wisdom so that when we go home we can double the spirit of fighting against imperialist forces. We are asking for what belongs to us. We are not asking for any favour or victimising anybody."

He praised Zimbabwe's land and empowerment policies. "You are running your own country; you have been managing your own affairs and you are not controlled by foreigners. That is what we need in South Africa."

Although Malema was hosted by Zanu-PF supporters, the party has declined to comment on his visit, possibly wishing not to offend Zuma, who is mediating Zimbabwe's reform process.

Malema looked relaxed around the wedding guests, smiling and joking as people queued to have pictures taken with him. Later that night, he and his team of "economic freedom fighters" partied at The Lounge, an upmarket Harare nightclub.

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