Malema 'wet behind the ears', says Zille

Democratic Alliance (DA) leader Helen Zille stands by her remark made on Sunday that Julius Malema is an “inkwenkwe”, which refers to an uncircumcised boy.

She told the Mail & Guardian Online on Tuesday that she meant the African National Congress (ANC) Youth League leader is “a little boy who is wet behind the ears”.

Gloves came off and political correctness was forgotten this weekend when the ANC Youth League president and the DA leader addressed communities across the country as part of their election campaign. 

In what is fast becoming a mud-slinging match between the two parties, Zille referred to Malema as an “inkwenkwe” while addressing a packed hall in KwaNobuhle near Port Elizabeth. She was responding to Malema’s remarks made on Saturday at an ANC rally in Durban.

Malema reportedly called her a “racist, colonialist and imperialist” and said that DA deputy leader Joe Seremane’s “role is to smile at the madam every time”. He also stated that he wanted Jacob Zuma for president with all his “corruptions” and branded the Congress of the People a party of angriests.

Zille’s remark sparked anger within the ANC, with the party’s treasurer general Mathews Posa condemning it as an “electioneering stunt”.

“She stooped very low in her response, very low. It means that she is not able to take the punches we do. She is hysterical. As a leader, she went below the bar with her response,” Phosa told the Star.

The literal meaning of “inkwenkwe” is boy. Professor of Xhosa Literature at the University of Johannesburg Dr Zilibele Mtumane said that in isiXhosa terminology it refers to someone who has not undergone initiation and hence not been circumcised.

“Such a person is regarded as unimportant. They are said to have no values and should be ignored,” Mtumane explained.

He said it was clear that Zille had used the word in a derogatory manner to insult Malema.

Tit for tat
However, Zille was unphased by the uproar over her remarks, saying: “If Malema hands out insults, he must be prepared to take a klap back.”

Zille told the M&G Online that when she called Malema an “inkwenkwe”, she literally meant he was “not yet an adult”.

“I have not said anything that undermines our Constitution. Everything Malema has said does,” she claimed.

Zille slammed the youth league leader for his comments against her, Seremane and DA youth leader Khume Ramulifho, saying: “Malema behaves in a way that is unacceptable in politics. He is full of gratuitous insults, he never debates issues and the only argument he has is the race card.”

Zille said she laughed at Malema’s comments that she is a “racist, colonialist and imperialist”.

“Malema reminds me of Robert Mugabe. He used to say that about his opponents,” she said, chuckling.

The DA leader was especially outraged about Malema’s “grave insult” of Seremane.

“Joe was fighting against apartheid before Malema was born, for the very rights that he enjoys now. He [Malema] cannot attack people old enough to be his grandfather and expect that I won’t respond,” she said crossly.

Hate speech?
DA youth leader Ramulifho told the M&G Online that Malema’s frequent outbursts are “bordering on hate speech”.

Malema on Sunday declined Ramulifho’s challenge to engage in a public debate with the DA on issues affecting the youth, saying that he won’t debate with “Helen Zille’s garden boys”.

While Ramulifho slammed the remarks as racist and elitist, he said the DA is not deterred by Malema’s tactics.

“They are not going to be a threat to us. Malema is attacking personalities instead of focusing on policy issues. I know it’s election time, but we must not act unprofessionally and lose our manners,” Ramulifho said.

He claimed Malema is “running away” from debating on issues such as unemployment and education because “he will not be able to defend and advance ANC policies that have failed”.

We want him to step up to the challenge and see how serious the DA youth are about issues instead of denying that they exist, Ramulifho said.

Repeated attempts to reach Malema for comment were unsuccessful.

Qudsiya Karrim

Qudsiya Karrim

Qudsiya Karrim is deputy online manager of She was previously editor of Voices of Africa, the M&G’s blogging platform. She’s also a journalist, social media junkie, mom, bibliophile, wishful photographer and wannabe chef. She has a love-hate relationship with the semicolon and doesn’t care much for people who tYp3 LiK3 ThI$. World peace is important to her, but not as much as a 24/7 internet connection. Read more from Qudsiya Karrim

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