Malema in Maritzburg: forgiven

2011-11-16 00:00

ANC Youth League president Julius Malema yesterday broke bread with members of a Pietermaritzburg minority rights group, paving the way for criminal charges to be dropped against him.

It was Malema’s latest attempt at receiving absolution from those who have taken exception to recent derogatory comments about Indian people and follows a similar apology in Lenasia.

As expected, the SA Minority Rights Equality Movement (Samrem) accepted his apology and indicated it would not take the matter further. Convenor Ashin Singh said there was “general consensus” that crimen injuria charges should be dropped, a decision that was expected to be ratified by Samrem’s executive.

Malema spent an hour with representatives of the Samrem, enjoying snacks and cold drinks, as part of the kiss-and-make-up meeting. Some of those he met were charmed, shouting “Viva Malema! We love you!” during the press briefing.

Malema said he apologised to the Samrem leadership over the phone after the charges were laid, but felt it was also necessary to do so in person. He wanted “to come and shake hands so that brothers can be brothers and sisters be sisters again between us the black and Indian Africans”.

“We came here to assure our people that they still constitute an important part of our people and that they have no reason to doubt their importance in our society …

"During our meeting they raised many issues of concern to them which we were not aware of, including legislation that they say seeks to undermine the Indian community. This is the beginning of a relationship between us,” Malema added.

In a statement Samrem identified affirmative action and employment equity legislation as concerns and listed examples of stereotypical comments about Indian people made by Jimmy Manyi and Fikile Mbalula, among others.

Malema ensured that his delegation included two Indian women — Magdalene Munusamy and Rachel Soobiah — who are both members of the ANCYL’s national executive committee.

There was unhappiness at the start of the meeting when an Indian journalist and Indian freelance photographer were ushered into the venue while scores of other journalists were locked out, leading to perceptions that Samrem was not practising what it preached.

A Samrem official claimed the two journalist were allowed access because they were members of the organisation.

There was tight security, with police and machine gun-wielding tactical response unit members keeping guard outside a lawyer’s offices where the meeting took place.

In an apparent reference to his own suspension and the ANC’s disciplinary findings against other league leaders, Malema joked that they might need Samrem’s expertise.

“There are many lawyers in the executive of Samrem. Half of the time we are in trouble so we will need their expertise,” he said.

Asked whether they believed Malema’s apology was sincere, Samrem member Premrajh Kanthilall said, “We need to appreciate the fact that he came in person. This indicates that he also wants reconciliation, so he will have to be monitored to see to it that he sticks to his word.”

The league members were given religious gifts, including the Bagavath Githa, The Koran and the Bible.

Samrem joins a long list of people and organisations Malema has apologised to over the years, including President Zuma’s rape accuser, “Khwezi”, for the sexist remarks he made in 2009.

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