Economic Freedom Fighters leader Julius Malema apologised to the party’s 4 000 delegates on Sunday for a skirmish that occurred the night before with a member of the so-called Defenders of the Revolution.
Addressing delegates attending the third day of the EFF’s second elective and policy conference in Johannesburg, Malema called the member of the Defenders of the Revolution — the party’s security force — who reportedly pepper sprayed delegates a “rascal”.
The incident occurred after the nomination of the EFF’s top six leadership late on Saturday night outside the dining hall. A video of the aftermath was circulated on social media.
Some delegates were reportedly rushed to hospital after inhaling the pepper spray.
Following the incident, EFF spokesperson Mbuyiseni Ndlozi told journalists that the assailant was fired.
Malema said the EFF leadership had given clear instructions to both the security and members of the South African Police Service “to behave in a manner that would show respect to delegates, our guests and the media”.
“But this guy who discharged the pepper spray, when we came from the press conference, I could see that he was somehow agitated and he was looking for trouble,” Malema said.
“I even said to the former national chair, this guy is going to be a problem, because he was in a golf cart driving recklessly in front of the entrance here. And he was hiding his face.”
Delegates applauded Malema as he gave his account of the incident.
He added that he did not understand why someone would hide his face “in such an above-board meeting”.
“So, whatever happened yesterday has got no blessings of our leadership. And as a result, we have released that comrade and we have further given an instruction that we do not want to see him anywhere close to the activities of the EFF.”
Malema asked delegates to find it in their hearts to forgive the party’s leadership. “This is a very beautiful conference and some rascals want to spoil it. Please forgive us. We sincerely apologise.”
According to the EFF’s organisational report, the Defenders of the Revolution “forms an integral strategic arm of the security department”.
In 2017, Marshall Dlamini was appointed head of security. But on Saturday night he was nominated unopposed to serve as the EFF’s secretary general.
The report reads: “It should be noted that these selfless fighters are members of the organisation, some of whom have experience in military training and security services, but who have devoted their time and attention defending and protecting the revolution at all costs.”
The Defenders of the Revolution “has discharged its tasks as a matter of a labour of love as opposed to remuneration,” the report adds.