ANC national chairperson and Speaker of Parliament Baleka Mbete has apologised for calling Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) leader Julius Malema a cockroach.
The Mail & Guardian broke a story on its website about Mbete calling Malema a cockroach on Saturday afternoon, when she was speaking in her capacity as ANC national chairperson at the ANC North West provincial congress.
Mbete apologised in a statement released by the ANC on Wednesday afternoon, in which she thought “long and hard” about her remarks at Saturday’s congress.
“I have concluded that my remarks – all offending statements I made – were inappropriate. The manner in which they came across was unfortunate,” Mbete’s statement said.
“I withdraw my remarks unreservedly. I apologise unconditionally to South Africans, to Parliament and Honourable Julius Malema for any hurt or harm I may have caused.”
When delivering a keynote address at the ANC provincial congress in Mahikeng, Mbete called Malema a cockroach and an irritant and proceeded to call EFF MPs “thugs” and “pawns” used by Western countries.
“Talking about Parliament, the president finally delivered his State of the Nation address. After we had had, actually a beautiful opportunity, to deal with an irritant,” she told delegates.
Later in her address, Mbete said: “Comrades, I want us also to know that those thugs there [the EFF] are going to be coming to the provinces to try and mount similar campaigns. Not only in the provincial legislatures but also at municipal levels.”
She then urged ANC delegates to prepare to fight the EFF at provincial legislatures and municipalities. But what raised unhappiness across the country and a complaint that was lodged with the South African Human Rights Commission was calling Malema a cockroach.
“We all need to ukusebenza maqhabane [we all need to work, comrades]. We must go back to work. Because if we don’t we will continue to have the cockroaches like the Malemas. Abaphithizelayo nje all over the place [who just roam all over the place], but have no content to give us and to lead the country. But uve kukhulunywa ngokuthi uMalema [but you hear people saying Malema] will take the place of Jacob Zuma and I wonder.”