ANC Youth League Julius Malema has chosen to take the moral high ground en route to his disciplinary hearing, and with less than 24 hours to go, he was a picture of composure, morality and just the slightest, disarming hint of child-like uncertainty. CARIEN DU PLESSIS was almost fooled.
Youth firebrand Julius Malema and his team are unlikely to sleep much on Monday night as they work with advocate Patric Mtshaulana, SC, to prepare for his disciplinary case while busses of supporters started arriving in central Johannesburg for a planned night vigil ahead of his hearing on Tuesday.
(Malema might have a double legal barrel in the form of advocate Terry Motau, if more than one representative is allowed by the party’s constitution. This is still to be decided.)
Malema was all poise and revolutionary determination (although not quite as animated as usual) as he told journalists during a lunch time briefing in a crowded Luthuli House foyer called two hours before: “Am I nervous? No I’m not. Once I’ve made a decision, I don’t turn back, it doesn’t matter the consequences”.
He said he’s not going into this case “panicky” and said the League aren’t “cowards”, but “fearless”. So it’s all under control. Well, almost. A near slip of tongue betrayed his hope for a last-minute meeting with the ANC’s officials to talk about the disciplinary before it starts.
“We are as always willing to meet with the leadership of the ANC and find a la.., erm, political solution to this problem,” he said.
The ANC’s secretary-general Gwede Mantashe last week said the party would never refuse to meet with the League, but by Monday afternoon, there had been no such a meeting and the party’s top six officials seemed slightly impatient.
In a statement following their meeting earlier in the day they said they’d push on with the charges and “any person going through the disciplinary process of the ANC, must subject himself or herself to such a process or any issues” and “matters that relate to the process, must be submitted to the disciplinary process”.
In other words: Malema shouldn’t try to blackmail us by taking the moral high ground, and speak out of turn or tell us how to run the process (see below for a decode of Malema’s statements).
All weekend, starting with his address to the League’s young women’s assembly in Centurion on Friday night and his church appearance on Sunday, he came across as a man who knows he is fighting the end game, but he also knows there is always a way to the top out of an apparent career cul de sac, as he had seen happen with corruption-accused President Jacob Zuma.
Temporary suspension from the party is, however, a very real possibility, as Malema is again charged for sowing divisions, the same offence he received a suspended sentence for last year.
This would mean a loss of position for him, and possibly also a loss of influence and maybe even business opportunities.
His fellow accused, party spokesman Floyd Shivambu, deputy president Ronald Lamola, secretary-general Sindiso Magaqa, his deputy Kenetswe Mosenogi and treasurer Pule Mabe – to stand “trial” on Wednesday and Thursday – are more likely to get off with a rap over the knuckles, as they haven’t previously been accused.
So, what was Malema trying to tell us at his briefing on Monday?
Malema: “The ANC Youth League appreciates the massive support we have received from so many South Africans, members of the international community and fraternal organisations.”
Decoded: See, Zuma, we have friends, also in other countries, and even some blokes in Botswana think we’re okay.
Malema: “It has come to our attention through media reports that many people from across the country, the ANC Youth and ANC will descend to Johannesburg to give support to the ANC YL leadership appearing before the ANC Disciplinary Committee from the 30th of August 2011.” He called for discipline from these members, and also for restraint from police. “The ANC Youth League will never be associated with unruly, disruptive elements and agent provocateurs who want to portray genuine support and solidarity.”
Decoded: Well we never … if these guys do anything wrong, and they just might, of course we knew nothing about this. Nada. Nix. Discipline them, not us, if anything goes wrong.
Malema: “We are going to a DC (disciplinary case) tomorrow and if there is any issue we have with the DC, we will raise it there. It is very unfortunate that a DC of the organisation gets communicated like that with the time and the venue” while it was supposed to be an internal process.
Decoded: These disciplinarians think they know how the ANC’s disciplinary processes work but they know shit and we’ll nail them for that.
Malema: “There are political processes and engagements and there are some attempts to make some political interventions to try and find a solution that will not embarrass the organisation.”
Decoded: The ANC’s leadership has messed up with these charges, and they know it, but we’ll be patient and wait for them to get with it.
Malema: “We are under huge attack by the membership for withdrawing that statement on Botswana (for which the League is now being disciplined) and we had to explain it to our members.”
Decoded: We still think ANC leaders should have charged everyone in the Youth League and embarrassed themselves, because League’s leaders speak on behalf of members.
Malema: “Our view on nationalisation won’t change, whether you expel us or not.” And: “Those who wanted to distract us from our programmes they have succeeded, at least for now.”
Decoded: You can touch me but don’t touch me on my policy. And don’t distract us from our revolution because you’re helping those scaredy white capitalists and the Stellenbosch mafia who are opposed to our programmes.
Malema: “With ground work you can’t defeat us, with these ideals we are holding. If you give us chance to stay long, yoh, you’re done. Maybe this is the only solution for those opposed to these ideas.”
Decoded: We’re organised (and better than the ANC or white capital), and we will come and get you, so get rid of us while you can, but it’s not going to help.
Malema: We respect the decision of the organisation on the succession debate, and nobody should speak about it. “We hope the organisation will act on those who speak, even those who support the sitting leadership.”
Decoded: The lot who are disciplining us have double standards. They praise the current leadership all the time.
Malema: “If you leave us to live and to see Mangaung and we talk, you must be guaranteed that will be the outcome. We believe in the power of the masses.”
Decoded: We are unrepentant about supporting our former youth leader, Fikile Mbalula, and want to get rid of the leadership under Zuma. Zuma doesn’t have the masses behind him, we have.
Malema (refusing to answer a question on whether he’d be taking the City Press to the ombudsman for stories about his personal finances and Ratanang family trust): “I’m not going to say anything on the Ratanang family trust. You need to move with the times, we’re with a new (story) now, the disciplinary.”
Decoded: Thank goodness I have a bigger story to talk about, because the other one is even worse.
Malema: “There is no bad blood between me and president Zuma.”
Decoded: And pigs can fly. But we are taking the moral high ground here – it’s not personal, it’s political.
Malema: “Whatever happens at the DC it is not the end of the road. The leadership will still have to take political decisions.”
Decoded: Political problems will find political solutions and we’re full of hope.
Malema: “The ANC has dealt with very difficult situations and have come out of those situations very strong. Even this one, the ANC will find a way of dealing with that. We have serious confidence in the leadership and the organisational processes.”
Decoded: The ANC is not a pig that will eat its own children.
Malema: “We are at the eve of the centenary of the ANC. Is this what we need now or should we be working with South Africans and the international community to celebrate the centenary?”
Decoded: The ANC is wasting its time on us. They should do their work and leave us alone, besides, they’re making the party look bad with this political fight. DM
Photo: Carien du Plessis for iMaverick
"Joyfully to the breeze royal Odysseus spread his sail and with his rudder skillfully he steered." ~ Homer