ANC puts heat on Malema
By Carien du Plessis and Warren Gwilt
On Thursday night, firebrand ANC Youth Leader Julius Malema was still waiting for an apology from the BBC journalist he expelled from a press conference earlier in the day.
But yesterday, Malema's outburst which had gone viral on the Internet, and was splashed in newspapers and on radio and TV provoked a different response, a thorough dressing down by the ANC.
This weekend he is due to fight for his political life in his home province of Limpopo when the ANC Youth League elects the new provincial leadership after an initial attempt to disqualify the so called anti-Malema branches from the conference
After months of being protected by the ANC, from President Jacob Zuma downwards, Malema found himself alienated from the ANC yesterday.
The ruling party said Malema's actions on Thursday had reflected badly on the whole "ANC family". ANC spokesman Jackson Mthembu also said the ANC did not stand behind Malema's support for Zimbabwean president Robert Mugabe.
He was also rebuked for defiantly speaking out about the murder of AWB leader Eugene Terre'Blanche after the ANC had called on its structures to keep quiet on the matter.
"The unfortunate outburst not only reflected negatively on him, but also reflected negatively on the ANCYL, the entire ANC family, our alliance partners as well as South Africa in the eyes of the international community," Mthembu said.
"The behaviour in question is not in keeping with the culture and traditions (or) conduct of a cadre and leader of the ANC," said Mthembu.
"The leadership abilities and qualities of the position that Malema holds should have prepared him to deal with the issue in a manner that demonstrated leadership."
"No amount of alleged provocation could justify such a response," he said.
The incident was sparked during a press conference to report back on the youth league's controversial trip to Zimbabwe over Easter.
Malema called BBC journalist Jonah Fisher a "bastard" and an "agent", before booting him out of the media briefing. The outburst came when Fisher pointed out that Malema lived in Sandton when the youth leader was chastising Zimbabwe's Movement for Democratic Change for operating from offices there.
But on Thursday night Malema was unequivocal.
"We are not remorseful and will never be remorseful about disrespectful journalists; particularly from countries whose media always undermine the credibility and integrity of African leaders.
"Our doors are however open for engagement with the journalist if he intends to render an apology and we will from there decide what will happen."
The ANC stance was backed by Cosatu which said it appreciated the "bold leadership" shown by the statement.
Malema upset Cosatu when he lashed out at its leader Zwelinzima Vavi for having indicated his willingness to serve on the ANC's national executive committee.
Yesterday, National Press Club chairman Yusuf Abramjee chaired a meeting of concerned journalists in Sandton. They resolved to write to Zuma requesting a meeting to discuss respect of the media.
The National Religious Leaders Forum has also requested a meeting with Zuma on Malema's conduct.
Meanwhile, sources close to the Youth League in Limpopo yesterday said a fierce battle was expected at the weekend conference where Malema's friend-turned-rival and current provincial chairman Lehlohonolo Masoga is expected to defend his position against Frans Moswane, who is in the Malema camp.
Another Malema friend, Jacob Lebogo, is expected to contest the provincial secretary position against the incumbent Goodman Mitilemi.
A frantic last-minute bid by the national youth league leadership to disqualify about 55 anti-Malema branches was warded off on Thursday night when the "audit problems" were resolved.
But those who oppose Malema said they expected him to bus in scores of supporters to disrupt the conference so that the results could be nullified if he were to lose.
The more than 700 delegates started arriving yesterday afternoon in an overcast and humid Makhado.
Malema and his close ally, Limpopo premier and ANC chairman Cassel Mathale are expected to address the conference.