ANC spokesperson Jackson Mthembu was arrested for drunken driving in Cape Town on Thursday morning — but this did not stop him from doing his job.
Mthembu, in a 21-minute telephonic interview with the South African Press Association — apparently while in police custody — passionately defended ANC Youth League leader Julius Malema before bursting into song.
“Don’t blame Julius. In fact, on this one, I will defend him,” said Mthembu.
“You must blame the ANC, don’t blame Julius’
Malema is facing a criminal charge and a complaint to the South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) for reportedly singing at the University of Johannesburg, “Dubula amabhunu baya raypha” (Zulu for, ‘Shoot the boers, they are rapists) with a group of students.
“You must blame the ANC, don’t blame Julius. But when you blame the ANC, then contextualise it,” said Mthembu, before he started singing the song to a Sapa reporter over the phone.
Mthembu was arrested on the N2 near the Pinelands off-ramp at about 8am and was only set to be released from the Mowbray police station later on Thursday.
Sapa phoned him at 9.22am for comment on the Malema story and the 21-minute interview followed.
When called back at 11.23am to ask if he had been arrested for drunken driving, Mthembu again answered his phone, but this time the call lasted only 40 seconds. He replied: “I can’t comment”.
The Independent Democrats (ID) called on the ANC to release a statement about Mthembu’s arrest.
“Coming so soon after the news that Mthembu apparently sang to a Sapa journalist this morning, the ID regards the reports of his landing up in jail as quite plausible,” said ID secretary general Haniff Hoosen in a statement.
“In fact, seen within the context of the ANC’s years-long reputation for saying one thing and doing something completely different, I think it is safe to say that Mr Mthembu has today earned his ANC stripes.”
ANC spokesperson Ishmael Mnisi — whose other colleague Brian Sokutu, was suspended this week — said party secretary general Gwede Mantashe was investigating the report of his arrest.
“Mr Mantashe is investigating all those issues [the Mthembu arrest] so we will then take it from there,” he added.
JP Smith, Cape Town’s mayoral committee member for safety and security, said members the so-called ghost squad, the city’s special high performance traffic unit, arrested Mthembu.
“Jackson Mthembu was arrested this morning [Thursday] on the N2 for driving in the bus lane. When they pulled him over, there was a strong smell of alcohol and they arrested him,” said Smith.
He said a colleague driving behind Mthembu pulled off the highway and tried to stop the officers from cuffing him. It was only then the officers realised he was a high-ranking politician, said Smith.
Mthembu was first taken to Mowbray police station. Smith said a constable at the station did not want to process Mthembu’s case because he was a senior ANC member.
“They were unwilling to process the details against Mthembu. There was a threat made that our officers would be arrested,” said Smith.
“The officers felt they were being intimidated because of the political credentials of the person involved.”
Three times the legal limit
The ghost squad members then took Mthembu to the unit’s “war room” in Athlone.
“The law should not protect politicians,” said Smith.
“He was tested for alcohol and was found to be more than three times over the legal limit. He tested 0,87 while the legal limit is 0,24 [milligrams of alcohol per 1 p000 millilitres of breath],” Smith said.
Mthembu was tested with a breathalyser.
“The results from his test were positive and will now be taken to court. It is a strange time of day to be under the influence.”
Smith said Mthembu was then taken back to the Mowbray police station.
Cape traffic spokesperson Kevin Jacobs confirmed a senior ANC member had been arrested for drunken driving on Thursday morning.
Earlier this week, Sokutu, also an ANC spokesperson, was suspended for remarks he made about President Jacob Zuma failing to declare his financial interests on time. – Sapa