The suspended president of South Africa’s African National Congress Youth League, Julius Malema, has launched a dramatic attack on President Jacob Zuma, describing his leadership as a dictatorship under which the youth in the party are being punished even “for thinking”.
Mr Malema, who faces expulsion from the ruling ANC if his appeal against a February 28 verdict by the party’s National Disciplinary Committee is rejected, was speaking during the Youth League’s centennial celebrations lecture at the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg.
He said while previous ANC leaders – including Zuma’s immediate predecessors Thabo Mbeki and Nelson Mandela – had accommodated criticism from the Youth League, under the incumbent’s leadership the youth in ANC were being “traumatised”, “suppressed,” and some of them “expelled from their own home.”
“We have seen under President Zuma democracy being replaced with dictatorship. We have seen an intolerance, people becoming impatient with the youth,” Mr Malema he told a sizeable crowd gathered at the Wits University hall.
“We have seen under President Zuma people who do not appreciate new opinions. They actually suppress new ideas and new ideas.”
The direct attack on President Zuma’s leadership opened yet another front in Mr Malema’s fight to remain within the ANC.
Since his expulsion from the party, the 30-year-old youth leader has used different tactics in an attempt to cling to his membership, including making an apology to the ANC leadership and threatening to take the party to court because he has been “pushed to the wall.”
With his attack on President Zuma, whom the youth leader helped to overthrow Mr Mbeki as president and party leader, Mr Malema is portraying his political ally-turned-foe as a poor leader ahead of the ANC delegates’ conference in December 2012.
“It doesn’t matter how many times we are wrong. The [ANC] leadership must never get tired of providing leadership. You can never get tired of being a parent,” he said, adding that the youth should only be punished for their actions, not for what they think.
Mr Malema received a five-year suspension from the ANC in November last year for fuelling divisions and bringing the party into disrepute through a series of actions.
They include saying at a press conference that President Zuma is worse than Mr Mbeki and for calling on the ANC youth to help bring about regime change in Botswana, whose leader he described as “a puppet of imperialism.”
Mr Malema appealed against the ANC disciplinary committee decision but instead earned himself an expulsion from the party.
Referring to the Botswana case as one case where they are being punished for what they are thinking, Mr Malema said, “We are saying we are going to Botswana with a command team. That is what [the youth league is] thinking. They have not done that.”
Mr Malema said if his expulsion from the ANC is confirmed, it will not stop him from being a member of the party because it is in his DNA.
He added that it would also not stop him from fighting for the issues that the youth league has identified as affecting ordinary South Africans like the nationalisation of the mines and equitable distribution of land.
In a passionate delivery, which the Mail & Guardian newspaper has described as “a new, polished and theatrical side of Malema as an orator,” Mr Malema spoke about the poor conditions that black South Africans live in and called for white people to hand back at least 80 per cent of the land they own without compensation.
“We must never be asked to compensate robbers and people who stole our land. It is our land and this land is what led to the formation of the ANC.”
“And when we say this land belongs to us, we don’t mean that our fellow white must be threatened to recede. It is not what we mean,” he said.
“We are saying to them if you have got 10,000 acres of land, give us 8,000 and you remain with 2,000. That is all we are asking for.”
-Via Africa Review