If the Youth League secretary general Sindiso Magaqa thought the position he had been occupying for close to six weeks now was a powerful one, he must be thinking again.
Magaqa declared on Sunday at the League’s press conference (scheduled for “exactly 13:00”, but starting at 14:15 sharp) at the Airport Grand Hotel in Boksburg (a stone’s throw from Birchwood Hotel, where Cosatu normally has its meetings) that the league “will never be diverted by reactionary media” and “will from now on, not entertain issues that relate to the personal life of the ANC Youth League president, because it does not form part of the agenda”.
Barely 10 minutes later a journalist from Eyewitness News asked, cautiously, about reports that Malema had established a family trust fund in 2008 through which he had received millions of rands, among which an alleged R200,000 kickback from a businessman he helped to secure a tender.
There were also fresh reports in the Sunday papers that Malema had paid R2 million of the R3.6 m cost of his house in cash and was extensively renovating his grandmother’s house in Seshego while rebuilding his house to the tune of R16 million.
In the circumstances it was a brave question. The league had invited journalists into its meeting room for the press conference, where members of the national executive committee sat in a semi-circle surrounding our seats. The young ones sat with the press releases in their hands, reading as Magaqa read it aloud. Journalists were only given copies later. It felt a bit like Piet Retief in Dingaan’s kraal.
Instead of ignoring the Eyewitness News question, Malema steamrollered ahead.
“That is monies from good Samaritans. They were approached by trustees for their contribution,” he said. He added that if there was a bribe of R200,000, there would have been a paper trail in his accounts, and besides, the person who claimed to have paid this bribe must come forward and speak out. (The league is dying to find the source.)
“From where I sit I am very comfortable. I don’t need R200,000, it won’t help me in any way”. It’s possible to imagine that most of his supporters would love to be in the same position.
“I never take bribes,” he said, challenging journalists and law enforcement agencies to prove this.
Explaining why he established the trust, his body jerking angrily, Malema shouted: “There was nothing I was hiding from this trust. Several organisations approached me asking me for my help, and I thought I needed an entity that can help me mobilise these resources. But I must do it in my family name, so that I can leave a legacy not only for myself, but my family.”
A church in his home town of Seshego was among the community projects that benefited from the trust.
Malema then told journalists not to write further about the story and that he will sue the City Press for the bribes allegations.
He went on: “Why me? Because I want economic freedom in my lifetime, I must be dealt with. People who think differently they resort to monkey tricks tactics, I’m not going to be silenced. I’m not scared of jail. I’m not going to be threatened by the Scorpions, Hawks, whatever, Sars. I’m not scared of those things. They can lock me up… If they’re determined to lock me up, they can do it. You are not going to silence a political debate through using state machinery and apartheid scaring tactics, but they must know even from prison I will shout economic freedom to our people. You can arrest me, you can’t arrest my ideas. I will teach those prisoners there about the struggle for economic emancipation,” he said, to which the league’s NEC laughed and clapped.
Perhaps Malema wanted to signal to the Hawks, which the Sunday Times reported is looking into his records, that he is irrepressible, if not invincible. Another journalist asked him whether he had benefited from the trust fund and Malema, not known for his elaborate diplomacy, simply said: “That’s none of your business,” which, translated, probably means: “Yes. Now please buzz off.”
Of course, the league’s top dogs also discussed other issues at its weekend meeting, addressed by ANC heavyweights like deputy president Kgalema Motlanthe, sports minister and current youth darling Fikile Mbalula, businessman Cyril Ramaphosa, policy guru under former president Thabo Mbeki, Joel Netshitenzhe, rural development and land reform deputy minister Thulas Nxesi, and economics gurus Duma Gqubule and Chris Malikane (all of whom applauded, the league statement said in bold type, the youth’s “struggles for economic freedom in our lifetime”). Issues like the multiparty negotiations in the early 1990s, Codesa, sunset clauses (or the lack thereof), land and agrarian reforms, the ever-elusive national democratic revolution, nationalisation, free education and industrial development were discussed.
Also, the League bemoaned South Africa’s foreign policy without Mbeki. It “expressed concern about the decline of regional and continental formations, SADC and the African Union, particularly since the departure of President Thabo Mbeki (sic) in the space of African leadership. The ANC Youth League is of the view that there is a vacuum on the ideological and political leadership of Africa and the sub-regions, and this is reflected by how the issues of Libya and the Ivory Coast were mishandled.”
Of course, South African foreign policy is now led by President Jacob Zuma, but the league steered clear of mentioning the Z-word. Also, the last time Malema detected a vacuum – Cosatu’s lack of leadership to workers – he vowed to fill it because “nature does not allow a vacuum”.
It appears the South African issues are no more enough for the policy giants within the League, so it has now decided to turn its attention to Botswana: While the League didn’t overtly say so, they might be starting their quest for African rule (Gaddafi-style?) by “uniting all oppositional forces in Botswana to oppose the puppet regime led by the Botswana Democratic Party… (which is) a foot stool of imperialism, a security threat to Africa and always under the constant puppetry of the United States (following talk that America wanted to establish a military base in Botswana).”
However, it does appear that the Botswana’s perceived closeness to the global arch-imperialist, the US, is the League’s biggest bugbear; Botswana’s contradicting the AU’s position on Libya possibly hurting the most. “Everything that imperialists say, Botswana is the first to endorse. We are not going to sit here with a neighbour that is going to conduct herself in a manner like that,” he said. Seeing that we in South Africa are “the masters of electoral politics” the league will show opposition parties how to defeat Botswanan President Ian Khama, Malema said.
Of course the League remains secretive, because theirs is “a plan to put somebody down and once we expose the plan to you, we will have failed”. Watch this vacuum. DM
Famous last words? Quotes from Malema’s press conference, finish and klaar:
“From where I sit I am very comfortable, I don’t need R200 000, it won’t help me in any way. If you are accusing me you must bring the proof, the onus is on you. I never take bribes.” (on allegations from a businessman that he paid R200 000 into Malema’s family trust as a kickback for helping him secure a tender)
“I don’t care what you write, I am wet already, why should I care about rain?” (on the media continuing to write stories about his private life, but confirming that he will be suing City Press for writing that he accepted a bribe): “I am not scared of jail. You can’t silence me and you can’t silence my ideas. I’m not scared of jail. I’m not going to be threatened by the Scorpions, Hawks, SARS, whatever, I’m not scared of those things.”
“I have no problem accounting to law enforcement officials. That trust paid tax last year in its first financial year… If the tax man comes to me, he is welcome. One thing that is true is that I live within my means. The life I live, I can afford it, it is not being sponsored by criminals and thugs.”
“Why would I have a trust and put my child and my grandmother in that trust to commit crime, the only child I have I put in that trust to commit crime? It is unthinkable, nobody will do that.”
“I live within my means. I can explain every cent that comes into my account. The life I live, I can afford it.” (City Press reported that an actuary estimates Malema would need about R123 000 a month to sustain his lifestyle, more than four times more than the salary he is said to receive from the Youth League)
“We are not going to entertain lazy journalists who can’t have their own stories, when there is a story you all follow Piet Rampedi (from the City Press). Old veteran journalists like you, you follow some village boy like Piet Rampedi, you can’t do that.”
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