The ANC Youth League says it went to court on Saturday to prevent the publication of Broederbond-sponsored lies about the (on the face of it highly suspicious) business dealings of its president, Julius Malema. Now that those 'lies' are public, though, the organisation seems remarkably reticent about what should then be a nice straightforward defamation case. BY PHILLIP DE WET.
Just a week ago Julius Malema was happy to face the media himself and declare that he is fully tax-compliant, is in no way involved in corruption, and and isn’t exchanging favours or accepting obligations in return for money. Oh, and that he remains ideologically poor, because he comes from poverty, despite living a rich man’s lifestyle. But after City Press on the weekend published details about where the money comes from, with a very clear link between Malema’s finances and government tenders, it suddenly became an organisational matter. Asked where Malema was, the answer was exactly the same as Malema’s when asked how he funded his lifestyle: “none of your business”.
But the league, by way of secretary-general Sindiso Magaqa, treasurer-general Pule Mabe and deputy president Ronald Lamola, had a lot to say about the allegations themselves. (To recap, Malema’s Ratanang family trust works a little like a wishing well: businesspeople hoping to win government tenders drop money into it, after which the tenders are awarded.) They are malicious lies told by a media simultaneously controlled and bribed by the Broederbond, the League said, because white, right-wing monopoly capitalists that suck the blood of African people are losing the battle against mine nationalisation and farmland expropriation without compensation and have resorted to dirty tricks. The intention is to distract the ANCYL from its economic freedom fight, in which Malema is the commander-in-chief, even though that clearly won’t work because nationalisation and expropriation is inevitable.
As for Mamela’s business interests, the nature of the trust, the flow of money into and out of it, all of those niggly details, that’s not worth going into. The League did put itself in an interesting position, however, with its top leaders marrying themselves to Malema outright. His business dealings are fully disclosed to the organisation, we are told, and above reproach. Which means it will go poorly for all involved if a criminal investigation into Malema comes up positive.
The ANCYL will welcome such an investigation, by the way, or at least that is the implication. “We think that is a very serious allegation,” said Magaqa to a question about the City Press’ sources saying R200,000 had been deposited into the trust account in return for help winning a favour. “If there is anyone that has proof of that money [changing hands] they should report it to law enforcement.”
As for other questions about Malema’s lifestyle, those are rooted in a misunderstanding of African culture. Mabe spent a considerable amount of time trying to explain that there is nothing unusual about asking a nextdoor neighbour for some salt, or school fees, or the short-term loan of a car, which is how Malema comes to drive a swanky Range Rover.
The organisation is clearly confident – or is putting up one helluva act of being confident – that no such evidence will be forthcoming. Officially that is because the entire incident is a lie concocted by the Broederbond-funded etc etc, but Mabe, the League’s moneyman, took the time to point out that a bribe requires two parties, both of which are criminally liable.
But the league appears considerably less confident that it can prove the bit about malicious lies with a political motive in court. Asked again and again whether Malema or the ANCYL would be instituting action for defamation, or turning to the press ombud to demand restitution, there was nothing but silence. That may have been less damning if the organisation had not turned to the courts to ask for pre-publication censorship, rather than simply answering to the allegations. As the law currently stands, a complainant is required to provide at least some proof of malicious intent (rather than a simple cock-up) as well as falsehood in order to win a defamation case. The Youth League has claimed both.
Where does the story go from here? Cosatu has called for an investigation, both internally by the ANC proper and by law-enforcement agencies. AfriForum has laid a charge of corruption. City Press has a pretty solid case for a slander complaint. The Democratic Alliance wants a lifestyle audit by the taxman. Should the ANC, or the SA Revenue Service, or the corruption-busting Special Investigating Unit investigate, they will be accused of being pawns in a political game – and on the wrong side of the political line too. If they don’t, each will suffer reputation damage of its own. As far as the ANCYL is concerned, however, there is nothing to investigate: Julius Malema, its rightfully elected leader (and, by extension, the representative of all young people in South Africa) has done no wrong. DM
Photo: ANCYL treasurer-general Pule Mabe, secretary-general Sindiso Magaqa, deputy president Ronald Lamola. (Daily Maverick)
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