JuJu backtracks on plans to meet Mbeki

2012-01-13 00:00

SUSPENDED ANC Youth League leader Julius Malema appears to have backtracked on plans to meet former president Thabo Mbeki — any time soon.

Only two days after telling SAfm that the league “need(s) to go and see him and we need to persuade him to contribute to [domestic] intellectual discourse”, Malema said yesterday there was “no hurry”.

“We never said we are going to see Thabo Mbeki. I said in the youth league we have been discussing the possibility of meeting with him.”

Malema was speaking in Uitvlugt, in the rural Sekhukhune region, about 60 km from Marble Hall, following a lecture he delivered at the Ephraim Mogale Primary School.

He said the league’s leaders and members had been discussing the matter among themselves and there was a feeling that Mbeki should reverse his decision to only comment on foreign matters.

“He deprives us of the opportunity to hear his views on the economy and development and how best to position our country to become one of the developing countries of the future,” Malema told The Witness.

Mbeki didn’t need anybody’s permission to speak out

“It is his role as citizen [to comment on domestic issues].

“It is not a specific task [we want to set him], it is an ongoing contribution like his brother [author and analyst Moeletsi Mbeki] does.”

“Why does he define himself outside of the country? It is like he doesn’t want anything to do with us. That is wrong,” he said.

Mbeki’s spokesperson Mukoni Ratshitanga this week said Mbeki had not received a formal request from Malema for a meeting.

He also said Mbeki would only reconsider his policy of not commenting on domestic issues, adopted after his ousting as president in September 2008, if there were very good reasons for doing so.

Malema, who was instrumental in the 2007 ousting of Mbeki from the ANC’s leadership, denied that he had previously sought a meeting with Mbeki, formally or informally.

The Witness has, however, reliably learnt that Malema mentioned the possibility of a meeting to people close to Mbeki before.

Malema’s apparent change of heart about Mbeki came in April 2010 when he said Mbeki was a better leader than President Jacob Zuma.

He was subsequently found guilty of sowing division within the ANC.

Malema last year decried the “lack” of leadership within the African Union, largedly viewed to be a sideswipe at Zuma, who represents South Africa in leadership positions in the continent in his position as president.

At the ANC’s centenary rally in Bloemfontein on Sunday, Malema shared a joke with Mbeki and chatted to him as they stood on stage.

Malema said the crowd’s fond cheers for Mbeki at the rally showed they were “happy to see him, they have forgiven him and they embrace him”.

Malema has also recently spoken out bitterly about his five-year suspension from the ANC, which he will be appealing on January 23.

He told the 200-strong crowd yesterday that ANC leaders never used to push those out who disagreed with them.

“If there is a leadership that is scared of criticism or new ideas, that leadership will kill the ANC,” he said.

He also warned against “purges” from the party, and said “political engagement” was important in the run-up to the party’s elective conference in Bloemfontein in December.

“Our solution is political engagement. Let’s put aside intolerance and for each argument put before us, let’s respond politically.”

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