The ANC Youth League's Thursday conference started out with a subdued, quiet Julius Malema, reading a (frankly boring) travelogue of his ANC Youth League recent visit to Zimbabwe. But it peaked with him shouting down a BBC journalist, calling him a bastard and an agent. The journalist then left the building before being forcefully ejected, in what he could have easily interpreted as a physical threat.
Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe reinforced the lesson of Kwame Nkrumah that a good imperialist is a dead imperialist, Julius Malema reported. In return the League taught the Zanu PF youth that violence should never enter politics, and told an empowerment action group that it should not seek to advantage those close to political power.
So far, par for the course, though a lot less combative than we’ve come to expect from Malema in recent months. Then a journalist dared to interrupt him.
Asked about the ANCYL’s outright support for Zanu PF, and the fact that it did not meet opposition parties in Zimbabwe, Malema criticised “popcorn” parties popping up in the country, contrasting them with the longevity of Zanu PF and disparaging them for “talking from air-conditioned offices in Sandton.”
Upon which Jonah Fisher, the white male journalist from BBC piped up to point out that Malema himself lives in Sandton. Then it rapidly turned ugly.
“This is a building of a revolutionary party,” Malema told the journalist. “Here you behave or else you jump.” Then he called to the back of the room for security to remove the man.
In our judgment Malema was talking about leaving the building – conventionally, by way of the elevators – but given that the conference was being held on the 11th floor of a downtown building, with large picture windows looking down onto traffic, that could well be misinterpreted as a threat.
The journalist left before he could be bounced, to shouts of “bastard!” and “agent!” from Malema.
Subsequently asked about the incident, Malema demanded that journalists show respect for the headquarters of the ANC.
We can’t allow to be undermined in our own territory. You can do that in your own offices, but once you come in here, and the same goes for everybody, this is not a playground. This is Luthuli House, this is the headquarters of a revolutionary party that liberated the people of South Africa… this is not a beer hall this… you can undermine all of us but not the house, never undermine the house.”
By Phillip de Wet
Photo and video: The Daily Maverick