Malema's 'bastard!' insult 'straight out of a Donald Trump playbook'

EFF leader Julius Malema's public attacks on the media are "straight out of a Donald Trump playbook".

And, if the party can't produce evidence for claims about individuals in the media and the government, it could be disqualified from next year's general elections. 

This is according to Media Monitoring Africa director William Bird.

Trump, the US president, is infamous for his personal attacks on the media. 

Bird spoke to News24 following several attacks by the EFF on the media, labelling prominent journalists such as Ferial Haffajee and Ranjeni Mumusamy and others as the "Ramaphosa Defence Force".

In addition, on Tuesday, Malema repeatedly called the Zondo commission of inquiry's evidence leader Paul Pretorius a "bastard".

Bird said for a leader of a prominent opposition party to use that type of language is "highly inappropriate" and "downright inflammatory".

The comment could land Malema in trouble with the law as well.

Insults punishable by fine, prison

According to Section 12.1 of the state capture commission regulations, "any person who insults, disparages or belittles the chairperson or any member of the commission or prejudice the inquiry or proceedings or findings of the commission, is guilty of an offence and liable on conviction to a fine, or to imprisonment for a period not exceeding six months".

"As we head towards elections one would think that political parties would try to de-escalate tensions, and not escalate them," Bird said.

"It has nothing to do with any legitimate critique [Malema] may have against [Pretorius]."

The EFF has been picketing outside the Tiso Blackstar building in Johannesburg where the commission of inquiry into state capture is being held, calling for the removal of Pravin Gordhan as Minister of Public Enterprises.

The party accuses Gordhan of a number of offences but has not provided proof of these.

In addition, a court ruling last week gave the EFF seven days to prove allegations that two journalists were apartheid-era Stratcom spies. Thandeka Gqubule and Anton Harber are demanding an apology and damages of R1m each from the EFF.

'Diversion - but from what?

Bird said the EFF had been "out of the media limelight for a while" and that its claims are "an effort to regain that".

"It seems like a diversion from what is really going on, and the question that needs to be asked is 'why?'.

"If [the EFF] had this 'evidence', where is their submission to the Zondo commission? Where are their affidavits? If you have evidence, present it," Bird said.

"Instead, [the EFF] chooses to use inflammatory language [and] race-baiting."

Referring to Malema's comment that Gordhan "hates black people", Bird said it was baseless as there was no evidence of that.

"Gordhan may well have a legitimate action of defamation against the EFF.

'You need proof'

"If you make an allegation like that, you need to have some basis of reasonable truth or evidence."

In terms of the party's attacks on journalists and the media, Bird says it was a deliberate attempt to try to silence them.

"That is very worrying and completely unacceptable."

Bird said the EFF was going to "learn the hard way" that making unfounded accusations will come at a cost.

"If they manage to produce evidence that [Harber and Gqubule] were part of Stratcom, I think many people in this country would be absolutely astonished.

"If they don't, they will have significant legal bills to pay. And if they continue along those lines, they will have further legal action taken against them."

The EFF lost two court cases against AfriForum last week, bringing its total number of losses against the minority rights group to five.

Bird said if the behaviour of EFF members and leaders on social media is found to be cyberbullying, they could be found to be violating the terms and conditions of those platforms. "That could effectively silence them."

At worst, the EFF could face not being registered as a political party ahead of next year's elections "if they can't demonstrate that they can adhere to the Electoral Code, which states that you can't distribute false information and you can't inflame tensions".

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