South Africa

Reporter’s Notebook: The Passion of Julius Malema

By Sipho Hlongwane 26 September 2012

A famous Equality Court case could not keep him down. The full might of the African National Congress’ disciplinary committees and an expulsion from the political home he loved could not keep him down. Inevitably, another court saga looms for Julius Malema. Will he weather this one out too, to come out nostrils flared and chest a-beating on the other side? One hopes so. What else would this lowly scribe do to keep busy? By SIPHO HLONGWANE.

Sello Julius Malema fears nothing. He has not feared a single thing since he began existing in 1981. As a child, he did not fear carrying a pistol. Then he did not fear setting fire to things, for political expression. Of late, he has not feared Solidarity, walking for a really long time, the media, the Boers, or ANC President Jacob Zuma. He has not feared death. Yes, our fearless Commander of the Economic Freedom Fighters has casually flicked doughnut crumbs off his immense belly in the general direction of the grim reaper. 

On 18 September, he bellowed, “I have nothing to hide. I only have my convictions. Nothing will stop me from fighting for economic freedom, not even my death. We are unshaken.”

Julius Malema fears nothing.

Well, that may be a bit of an exaggeration. The commander does allow some things to unsettle him a little. Wasting time, for example, transforms him from the generous leader he is into a quivering mess of tears. Therefore, he does not waste time. He has never wasted his own time, ever. Other people’s time? That is not for him to waste time considering or worrying about. Making a court appearance on Tuesday would be an immense waste of his time. So therefore, no court appearance will be made. And even stopping to explain why he will not be showing face on the first day of the biggest trial of his life is in of itself a waste of time – therefore his lawyer Nicqui Galaktiou was dispatched to make the announcement.

“We have not received confirmation of charges as yet … I can tell you that Mr. Malema won’t be appearing in court” on Tuesday, she told Sapa.

For those who must know (fortunately for all Juju-weary Daily Maverick readers who would rather someone else paid attention for their sakes, that group includes me), a press statement will be due on Tuesday morning.

We know that an arrest warrant was issued on Friday. City Press said that it was based on charges for money laundering, corruption and fraud relating to his Ratanang Family Trust and its shareholding in On-Point Engineering, a company that allegedly made millions from Limpopo government tenders.

The case will also be heard in Polokwane.

The authorities have been threatening to arrest Malema – via media leaks; it must be admitted – for many months now. The timing of the warrant does rather make it appear as if someone got pricked into action by the commander’s involvement in the aftermath of the 16 August massacre at Marikana. Almost a month to the day after the police shot 112 striking workers, the government declared that a crackdown on illegal activities would happen, if they continued. The decision came after a meeting of the security cluster of cabinet minister, and other civil servants in charge of other state agencies.

City Press claims that people sympathetic to Malema’s cause say that the decision to arrest Malema came out of that meeting.

It doesn’t end there, however. Over the weekend, more salacious titbits emerged.

“A tender thriller – that’s probably the best description of Public Protector Thuli Madonsela’s report into On-Point Engineers,” wrote Adriaan Basson. “The company, partly owned by Julius Malema’s family trust, broke almost every rule in the book governing public procurement in South Africa, according to Madonsela.”

The provisional report by the public protector finds that the Ratanang Family Trust benefits “improperly” from the tendering process, but there is no evidence that Malema personally interefered.

“The evidence and information obtained during the investigation showed that On-Point owed its existence, as a profit-making establishment that could declare dividends on a monthly basis, solely to the awarding of the contract by the department to it in October 2009. Because the awarding of the  contract was based on ‘deliberate misrepresentations and non compliance with procurement prescripts’, On-Point’s shareholders – Malema’s family trust and Gwangwa’s family trust – benefited improperly ‘from the unlawful, fraudulent and improper conduct of On-Point and the department’,” Madonsela reportedly finds.

Oh, and the taxman wants R16 million from the commander for monies that have flowed in and out of the family trust. A judgement was obtained by the South African Revenue Services in the North Gauteng High Court on September 11.

But obviously it is all a plot!

Or so thinks Sindiso Magaqa, temporarily not the secretary-general of the ANC Youth League while he serves out a membership freeze for being rude and insulting.

“It was not a surprise for us because we knew there is an orchestrated campaign that is being run in government to arrest the president of the ANC youth league,” he said to the Mail & Guardian. “You will have noticed that after the Marikana issue, this thing of arrest has popped out because people were very aggrieved that (Malema) emerged as a leader who can go and listen to the people, and people have responded to his call for a mining revolution so we can share the economy of this country.”

Actually chief, yes we have noticed the commander’s successful attempts to jumpstart his public profile (if not his political career) by ramming his round peg into the square Marikana hole until it fit. And so have some very high-up people in government and someone has clearly decided that Something Must Be Done.

A moment’s pause here, and a furrowed brow. No matter how much one may distrust Malema’s intentions, the timing and seeming perfect orchestration of charges after the Marikana turmoil does smack of machinations at the highest levels of power. It stinks, basically. Then again, we won’t know that Malema has anything to answer for until a judge has sifted through all the evidence and decided, will we?

The circus will head north on Tuesday. Malema won’t be there. That is when the rest of us will know how serious this all is, because all the whispers and rumours will have to be aired out in public.

But Malema will not be afraid. The commander does not fear. Rather, he peers contemplatively out of the back seat window of a black Mercedes Benz Vito as it speeds away from yet another mine under siege from its own workers, and plans the next move. For now, it is perhaps the contents of tonight’s dinner. And then a review of Galaktiou’s press statement to be released on Tuesday, for those who care for such things (insert a clattering remark of self-pity here, scribe). And then curled lip thrust at Death, on the way to bed. For Julius Malema fears nothing. DM

Photo by Jordi Matas.


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