Soon after rumours snowballed that President Jacob Zuma would announce a reshuffle (as we advised him to), the ANC Youth League called an “urgent” press conference on preparations for its “economic freedom” march later this week. CARIEN DU PLESSIS drew the short straw and witnessed Not the Story of the Day (or even the Week).
ANC Youth League Floyd Shivambu’s politeness and helpfulness ahead of his organisation’s Monday lunch-time press conference, called on short notice earlier that morning, should have given it away: the ANC Youth League is on the back foot.
At 1pm he apologised that the briefing could start about 30 minutes late because the League’s officials were meeting with the ANC’s officials. A bare 13 minutes later, they exited the lift into the Luthuli House foyer where all was set up for the presser: deputy secretary-general Kenetswe Mosenogi, deputy president Ronald Lamola, League leader Julius Malema, secretary-general Sindiso Magaqa and treasurer Pule Mabe. And Shivambu, of course.
They might have been slightly surprised at the less than cosy atmosphere in the foyer – usually it’s so packed with journalists that there’s hardly space for anyone else to wear a Breitling, but on Monday those bladdie agents who did turn up to listen to Malema, all had space to exhale.
Shivambu said the press release would be sent later by email because the Youth League wants to comply with the “green economy”, but it would probably be more correct to say Malema didn’t really have a script.
The purpose of the press conference was to gloat about how the ANC really was eating out of the League’s hand – “we have briefed leadership of the ANC this morning about the march and they have accepted our explanation and even had some few tips to share with the Youth League on organising a successful, peaceful march,” Malema said, adding this is not about overthrowing the government (a mere 5,000 marchers are expected, plus 1,000 marshals).
He also used the presser to claim intimidation and hurdles – and to announce that he wouldn’t pay the R2 million deposit the Gauteng metros want from the League, even if he had the money. This was a revolutionary uprising, after all, and the League shouldn’t even have had to ask permission.
This means Malema could play martyr if security agencies (quite rightly) try to stop the march, while the hurdles claim is always a clever pre-emptive strike and disclaimer in case anything goes wrong or the march flops, because then you can blame it on your enemies too.
Immediately after saying the ANC’s officials are okay with the march (this would include President Jacob Zuma), Malema turned around and dished up a few dark hints about people abusing state agencies to stop the League (this would refer to Zuma, mostly).
Bus owners are being intimidated and told they wouldn’t get contracts in future if they helped the League, so they have withdrawn their busses (Malema doesn’t say who intimidated the bus owners or where their contracts won’t come from, but presumably this would be from government departments run by those who don’t sympathise with Malema, or from the ANC, which frequently uses busses to mobilise for rallies). In addition the Joburg Metro Police wanted details of the bus drivers, such as their names, ID numbers, cell phone numbers, and so forth, which would have opened them to further intimidation. So the League got Santaco on its side and hired taxis instead.
Malema also complained that the National Intelligence Agency (soon it will be better known as the State Security Agency) has been visiting members in provinces like KwaZulu-Natal, the North West and Mpumalanga like they had been after the chaotic and violent protest of Malema’s supporters in front of Luthuli House on the first day of his disciplinary at the end of August. “Apartheid tactics,” Malema screamed.
Although one can hardly blame intelligence agencies for being concerned about the extent of anarchy to be expected at the upcoming march, perhaps they should back off or be a little more subtle, or go straight to Malema – who (eerily) knows all the League’s logistical plans down to a tee and who has promised to “attend to that NIA like there is no tomorrow”.
The plan is as follows: gather at Beyers Naude Square in the Johannesburg CBD on Thursday morning, march to the Chamber of Mines a few blocks from there, march to JSE in Sandton many, many blocks from there (not using the M1 because police said it would cause traffic jams), and then march to the Union Buildings in Pretoria, 60kms from there. Luckily the League has all night (at a good pace, with the right sports nutrition and perhaps some medical assistance, if you’re not so fit, you can cover 60kms in 12 hours), because it’s planning a night vigil on the lawns before handing over a memorandum the next day.
“We are not going to allow cars there from the media. If you want to cover the march you must be fit, especially camera people, because we’re not going to do less than 60km on that day. We’ll see if people can sustain the march to Pretoria. I’m just worried about Floyd,” Malema said.
Of course all this is only mildly important now, because Zuma knocked Malema off the top news spot by announcing the reshuffle, which included the promotion of ANC MP Stella Ndabeni to deputy minister for monitoring in the presidency. Although Ndabeni is only 34, there wasn’t a peep of praise from the Youth League on Monday about Zuma’s generational mix coup, even though she hails from the League’s national executive committee. Or rather, she was on there until last year, when Malema suspended her for defending ex-Limpopo League leader Lehlogonolo Masoga. She was quite vocal in her non-support for Malema in the run-up to the League’s elective conference in June too. So that would explain their silence on this one.
Zuma’s reshuffle hasn’t touched the League’s favourites, Fikile Mbalula (sport), Tokyo Sexwale (housing) or Paul Mashatile (culture), so all they could really say in their reaction (via statement, which was emailed to journalists) was that police chief General Bheki Cele’s suspension should not overshadow “the inspiration and dedication to fight and combat crime” which he had brought to the force.
Zuma’s announcements on Monday was as much a show of power and action to Malema as it was the right thing to do at the time, and it will certainly be in the back of the young lion’s mind when he faces the ANC’s disciplinary committee again on Wednesday. Malema might do what he often does when he’s in a corner, and resort to total chaos, or some of his supporters (and donors) might decide to lie low and stay away from the march. This is promising to be one of those long weeks in politics. DM
"The soul is known by its acts" ~ Thomas Aquinas