Some charges against ANC Youth League leader Julius Malema might be dropped on Friday, but for at least one other charge, he will have to stand in the dock with his fellow leaders. It wasn’t the swift justice the ANC had hoped for, but at least they’re allowing Malema to feel that he can put up a good fight. CARIEN DU PLESSIS reports.
Only one day was set aside for ANC Youth League leader Julius Malema’s disciplinary hearing, but it’s set to drag out all week after his lawyers questioned the procedure and the charges against Malema at every turn.
On Wednesday Malema’s representatives, senior counsel Patric Mtshaulana and advocate Dali Mpofu, concluded their argument, started on Tuesday afternoon, for the charges against him to be dropped.
The ANC’s prosecutors, deputy justice minister Andries Nel and senior counsel Gcina Malindi, had not even had a chance yet to put the substance of the party’s case to Malema.
The ANC’s disciplinary committee issued an update on the case on Wednesday night after proceedings were adjourned around 4pm.
The committee said the charge relating to barging into the meeting of ANC officials was removed from Malema’s charge sheet “for the sake of convenience” and would be heard with the other four Youth League officials (deputy president Ronald Lamola, secretary-general Sindiso Magaqa, his deputy Kenetswe Masenogi and treasurer Pule Mabe) on Friday.
It is likely that evidence would be led on this charge, and the facts in the case, the witnesses and representatives of the League’s officials are the same.
According to insiders, Malema’s representatives questioned the process, saying Malema heard about the charges against him in the media before he had heard from the disciplinary committee. The committee issued a statement an hour or two after the story broke last month that the charges had been delivered on Malema.
Malema’s lawyers also questioned the charges, arguing that some of them are baseless and should be quashed completely. One of the charges they regarded as flimsy is the one relating to the League’s pronouncements on wanting to effect a regime change in Botswana by siding with the opposition – the issue that sparked the hearing.
On some of the other charges, Malema’s counsel argued that he had said things on behalf of the League’s members and should be charged with them. The most serious charge Malema would want to see dropped is that of sowing divisions in the ANC by saying SADC and the AU had not experienced real leadership since former President Thabo Mbeki left. He had received a suspended sentence on a similar charge last year, comparing Mbeki and President Jacob Zuma, and if found guilty again, would be kicked out of the party for a certain number of years.
The substance of the accusations against him had not been addressed yet. Drawing out the process could work in the disciplinary committee’s favour because it would satisfy Malema and his representatives that the hearing is fair and the arguments had been aired properly. Politically, the delay would also give a chance for tempers to calm after Malema’s supporters got violent and burnt pictures of Zuma outside Luthuli House on Tuesday at the start of Malema’s hearing, and for consultations to take place.
On Wednesday only a handful of supporters gathered outside Luthuli House, some dressed in T-shirts with former president Thabo Mbeki’s face on, and the gathering was without major incident. But the longer the process, the more ammunition for Malema to argue that the whole thing should be called off because justice delayed would be justice denied.
He told journalists on Monday that there had been attempts from the League’s side to find “political solutions” the charges, which he reckons are politically motivated. “One of those solutions is to finish this DC (disciplinary case) as quickly as possible because the more it drags on, the more it damages the image of the organisation. So all of us are going into that DC with the understanding that we will find a solution as soon as possible.”
Despite the small victory of persuading the ANC not to move the venue of the hearing, Malema had suffered several setbacks in the past two days. First, he was denied his request for three disciplinary committee members, including chairman and deputy science and technology minister Derek Hanekom, to recuse themselves. This would have meant the committee would have had to be reconstituted. The ANC said the request for recusal was turned down because “insufficient facts had been advanced to show bias or a perception of bias on the part of these three members”.
Then his third representative, Muzi Sikhakhane, the lawyer who represented him in his hate speech case, was forced to step down as he was not an ANC member in good standing. The postponement of the case so that the disciplinary committee could deliberate about the charges on Thursday, is therefore a bit of a breather for Malema as these arguments had not been rejected out of hand.
By Wednesday it seemed Malema had lost even more sympathy as the ANC’s leadership in the Eastern Cape (the chairman, MEC Phumulo Masualle, is also SACP treasurer) condemned the actions of League supporters on Tuesday. Student organisation Cosas, labour federation Cosatu and the SACP had already expressed their dismay about events.
A source with knowledge about these processes also questioned why Malema could not find an elder from the ANC to represent him. Such a person would have helped him in his case to find a political solution to his problem, as he had wanted to, or they would have had at least the know-how to effect a plea bargain. In the event, he took the legal route and employed lawyers.
Spokesman Floyd Shivambu’s hearing, which was supposed to have taken place on Wednesday, has been postponed. He faces a charge in connection with the League’s pronouncements on Botswana and for telling a journalist to “fuck off”. iM
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