Malema's fight-back strategy

Julius Malema’s legal team is seeking to highlight what it says is uneven treatment in the charges he faces, top ANC and youth league officials have told the Mail & Guardian.

On Wednesday night the ANC’s disciplinary committee postponed proceedings until Friday to consider the argument of the team, which includes former SABC chief executive Dali Mpofu, that all charges against Malema should be dropped.

Photo gallery: Chaos outside Luthuli House

The team queried each charge, questioning whether it truly violated the ANC’s constitution. It also asked whether the party was exercising discipline consistently over all party members.

The ANC charged Malema with:

  • Causing serious divisions in the party by saying the departure of former president Thabo Mbeki had left a vacuum in African leadership;

  • Bringing the party into disrepute with the league’s calling for regime change in Botswana;

  • Barging into a meeting of ANC officials; and

  • Calling white people “criminals” who had taken land from blacks by force.

During his disciplinary hearing, Julius Malema’s supporters ran riot outside at Luthuli House. But as soon as he began speaking to them afterwards, the young lions became as meek as lambs.
The legal team challenged the ANC to provide valid reasons for regarding the comment about Mbeki as a serious offence. The party had argued that the statement undermined President Jacob Zuma.

But Malema’s lawyers argued that if this were the case, the charge should have been that Malema had caused divisions in the ANC specifically by undermining Zuma.

On the Botswana comment, Malema’s legal team asked the ANC to show which specific policy the youth league leader had violated. The ANC had referred to the Freedom Charter, which says “Batswanaland” will decide its own future. This accorded with Southern African Development Community policy that individual countries should respect the sovereignty of other countries, the party said.

But Malema’s team challenged the use of SADC policies in matters concerning the ANC. Said a highly placed ANC source close to the youth league officials and familiar with the disciplinary proceedings: “They [Malema’s team] argued that this is not a SADC case. They said they needed to be provided with the ANC policy the party claims Malema has violated.

“They argued that different leaders within the ANC had made statements about other countries, but no action had been taken against them. Where is the consistency?

We had people blockading Zimbabwe and Swaziland’s borders. Others made statements about Libya which are not in line with the ANC. Why are these people not being charged?”

‘Rushed job’
Malema’s lawyers also referred to the ANC constitution, suggesting the party had “rushed” to press charges on the Botswana comment. The constitution says it is reasonable to press charges within three months of an alleged offence, yet Malema made the comment as recently as July.

Said the ANC source: “[Malema’s team put it to the committee that] the statement about whites being criminals was made on May 9. The charges were brought only this month [on August 19]. Why is it that in the Botswana case you [the ANC] did not wait three months?”

On the charge that Malema had made racist remarks about whites, the lawyers said the youth league leader had made the comment in Zuma’s presence.

“There have been several meetings of the ANC officials since then,” the team had argued, the source said. “Why did he [Zuma] not bring this to the attention of the officials so that Malema could be charged?”

Another senior ANC leader told the M&G this week that Malema’s reference to whites as criminals had been discussed in the ANC national executive committee, with no one suggesting that Malema be charged.

“To raise the matter now is acting in bad faith,” the ANC leader said.

According to the first highly placed ANC source, close to the disciplinary proceedings, Malema’s lawyers said the youth league was an autonomous body that was allowed to formulate its own policies with the aim of influencing the ANC.

The source said: “Malema’s lawyers argued that if the ANC’s argument was that the youth league could not have policies that contradict those of the ANC, why did the ANC not charge youth league members after they took a resolution on nationalisation, because this was not ANC policy? Where is consistency there?”

On the third charge, that of barging into a meeting of ANC officials, the party said this week it would be removed from the charge sheet so that Malema could appear with four other ANC Youth League leaders facing the same charge.

ANCYL vs Mantashe
Malema and the four are expected to deny that they stormed into the meeting. They will argue that they went there after telling ANC secretary general Gwede Mantashe that they needed to meet ANC officials to raise a matter unconnected with Botswana.

Mantashe had told the youth league officials the league’s meeting with the ANC to discuss Botswana had been postponed.

“He [Mantashe] said they could go see the officials if there was something they wanted to raise.”

When they arrived, the officials were busy with Social Development Minister Bathabile Dlamini. They were told to wait until the meeting had finished.

After the meeting they were called in. “Gwede [Mantashe] offered them fruit. They greeted everyone and explained to the ANC officials they [had come] to the meeting because there was something they wanted to discuss with them. Zuma started shouting at them, asking who do they think they are,” said the source.

Motlanthe is said to have intervened, asking the league’s officials to leave.

As they were leaving, Mantashe again offered them fruit. “It does not make any sense that the officials are now being charged for that,” said the same ANC source.

Mantashe’s role has been central to the fight-back. On Tuesday evening he said the hearings would be moved from Luthuli House to a secret location after Malema’s supporters protested outside the ANC headquarters. Apparently, Mantashe wanted the hearings to be moved to the Free State.

But the disciplinary committee turned him down.

Mantashe refused to discuss any matter related to charges against ANC Youth League officials.

My cousins’ Juju-lation
I’m sitting in my lounge on Tuesday night, watching TV and trying to make sense of what happened in downtown Jo’burg today. Suddenly there’s a commotion at the kitchen door. My cousins, Zakhele and Siphiwe, appear in their ANC Youth League T-shirts. They’re chanting struggle songs. “Dubula, dubula! Dubula nge sbamo! [Shoot, shoot! Shoot with a gun!],” they sing.

Then they ask: “Did you see us on TV?”

My cousins have spent the day outside Luthuli House. Both are unemployed. Both have found a political home within the ANC Youth League. One day they hope to move up the ranks of the organisation.

Tired of lazing around, they decided to go and support a man they believe is fighting for the economic liberation of black people. “Mabamu yeke uJuju! [They must leave Juju alone!],” says Siphiwe.

Julius Malema has become the messiah who will liberate them from their struggles. “We thought our president, Jacob Zuma, was going to bring about change, but we were wrong. We’re going with Juju now,” they tell me.

My cousins always believed that the path to success was clear: a middle-class, English-speaking school, followed by a degree in computer skills at university or college. Otherwise you end up working at Pick n Pay as a cashier.

But the ANC Youth League leader represents the opposite of this. His highest qualification is grade 12 and he comes from Limpopo. Yet look where he is. “We admire his perseverance and willpower,” says Siphiwe.

“Did you see the attention he commanded from the world?” asks Zakhele, shaking his head in disbelief and admiration.

I can’t help but notice the inspiration my cousins get from Malema. They not only look up to him and respect him, they also believe Juju speaks what is in the hearts of many young people. The allegations of corruption don’t matter to them at all.

“He is in touch with the masses and not scared of the capitalists,” my cousins tell me, implying that this is the real reason “they”—Zuma and his supporters—want to suspend him.

But, Zakhele says, “It’s too late for that now.”

My cousins get up to leave. Before they go they offer some advice. “Don’t be fooled by the obvious,” they tell me. “With Juju, there is more than meets the eye.”—Sibongile Nkosi

For more news and multimedia on ANC Youth League president Julius Malema click here.

Matuma Letsoalo

Matuma Letsoalo

Matuma Letsoalo is the political editor of the Mail & Guardian. He joined the newspaper in 2003 and has won numerous awards since then, including the regional award for Vodacom Journalist of the Year in the economics and finance category in 2015, SA Journalist of the Year in 2011, the Mondi Shanduka SA Story of the Year award in 2008 and CNN African Journalist of the Year – MKO Abiola Print Journalism in 2004. Read more from Matuma Letsoalo

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