/ 22 July 2008

‘Kill for Zuma’: I regret it, says Vavi

Congress of South African Trade Unions general secretary Zwelinzima Vavi has expressed regret over his recent ”shoot and kill for Zuma” comments.

However, he did not retract the remarks after a meeting with the South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) on Tuesday, saying his words were not a call for armed action.

In a statement issued after a four-hour meeting in Johannesburg, Vavi said that the statement was not a call for lawlessness.

”Against this background, does this mean the climate in contemporary South Africa calls for armed action? To that my answer is a resounding no!

”In my speech I was not educating that we should take up arms because we have exhausted peaceful attainment of our goals. I was merely stating a principle that comrades should be ready to defend one another and, when necessary, that may involve killing.

”I understand that the word ‘killing’ jars some people’s sensitivities and that I regret.”

He said this did not, however, detract from the general principle that taking up arms was always a possibility, but ”not under the current conditions”.

He said he understood that some people felt uncomfortable with the word ”kill”.

”I do appreciate that the use of kill is a strong word,” he said.

He said the willingness to lay down one’s life didn’t mean that one was prepared to get killed. When he spoke about the willingness to lay down one’s life for a revolution he also spoke of the willingness ”to die for the Constitution, the Bill of Rights and the rule of law”.

The commission said that it agreed with Vavi that the use of the phrase ”shoot and kill” was too strong and regrettable, and considered the matter closed.

Vavi said: ”I’m happy with the solution … We went into hard discussions with the commission and this is the product … I am happy with that.”

SAHRC chairperson Jody Kollapen said: ”If someone says, ‘I regret saying that,’ that goes a long way. There is a genuine expression of regret.”

A large group of journalists had gathered on Tuesday to hear if Vavi was going to apologise for or retract his remarks during his meeting with the SAHRC.

At a funeral in June, Vavi said: ”So yes, because Jacob Zuma is one of us, and he is one of our leaders, for him we are prepared to lay [down] our lives and to shoot and kill.”

This followed similar remarks by ANC Youth League president Julius Malema.

The commission asked Malema and Vavi to retract their comments on the grounds that they could be a violation of section 10 of the Equality Act, which speaks against communications intending to incite violence.

Malema has said he will not use the word ”kill” in public again. — Sapa