Zuma puts his foot down at last

2010-04-11 10:08

PRESIDENT Jacob Zuma has for the first time taken a hardline stance on wayward ANC Youth League leader Julius Malema.

Stopping short of suspending Malema yesterday, Zuma said there would be “consequences” for ­anyone who failed to heed the ANC ­national executive committee’s call for discipline among party ­members.

Zuma took the unusual step of ­issuing a statement denouncing Malema’s action even after the ANC secretary-general Gwede Mantashe had already spoken out against Malema’s boorish behaviour.

Zuma’s statement comes in a week when Malema intimated that the ruling party would campaign for the re-election of Zanu-PF in Zimbabwe’s next election, publicly humiliated a British Broadcasting Corporation journalist, and seemingly ­defied an ANC order not to sing racially inflammatory struggle songs.

An ANC source told City Press that Zuma met Malema this week ­after Thursday’s ANC Youth League press conference when Malema tore into the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) leader Morgan Tsvangirai and said his party would campaign for Zanu-PF.

The ANC had been counselling Malema even before he undertook his Zimbabwean expedition but he has failed to mend his ways.

“People must appreciate that the ANC is like an elephant. It walks slowly but when it puts its foot on you, you’ll be in crutches,” the source said.

Zuma felt Malema’s comments were insensitive to the role the ­president played as a neutral mediator in the Zimbabwean crisis.

City Press understands that Zuma called Tsvangirai this week to ­distance himself from Malema’s comments.

Yesterday, Zuma said as much.

“We undertake this task with the necessary seriousness and sensitivity, and have to ensure impartiality at all times.

“We cannot and will not side with any one of the parties to the exclusion of others,” he said.

An MDC source said the party had considered cancelling an overseas trip it planned to undertake to ­persuade European leaders to lift sanctions against Zanu-PF leaders in government.

Zuma also reaffirmed media ­freedom and condemned the way Malema had treated BBC journalist Jonah Fisher.

He said the ANC requires responsible leadership and reminded Malema that the ANCYL was “not an independent body”.

“It exists within the umbrella and discipline of the ANC. The organisation will deal with these matters ­internally as it deems fit.”

Similarly, ANC treasurer Mathews Phosa gave an indication that the time for Malema’s antics was over.

Speaking at an SACP event to commemorate the 17th anniversary of Chris Hani’s assassination in Boksburg yesterday, Phosa said the country did not need “hot-headed” leaders following the murder of right-wing leader Eugene Terre’blanche.

“We don’t need hotheads. We need leaders to unite this nation,” he said.

“We cannot under any circumstances be pushed back into a society of racism, fear and divisive acts … We need leaders who understand that populism has to be shelved in the interests of the nation,” he said.

“This is the moment for cool heads and respect. The African child must grow in the principles of respect,” he said.

A small group tried to disrupt Phosa’s speech by singing songs in praise of Malema while the ANC national treasurer was still speaking.

SACP national organiser Solly Mapaila and soldiers from the South African National Defence Force had to quell the noise.

Malema, however, seemed undeterred by Zuma’s rebuke. At an ANCYL conference in Limpopo yesterday, Malema chased a delegate with a chair and beat him up for jeering at him and singing disparaging songs.

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