Jansen: Malema extremely smart

2009-11-13 22:15

Cape Town - ANC Youth League president Julius Malema was "extremely smart", University of Free State rector Jonathan Jansen said on Friday.

"His ability to synthesise a fairly complex set of discussions that we had was amazing," he said.

"I wish I had some professors who could do that."

Jansen was speaking to the Cape Town Press Club about his much-publicised meeting with the youth leader last month on the university's Reitz race row.

Jansen said he had a golden rule that when he talked to anyone, especially politicians, private meetings stayed private.

"And so I'm not going to talk about Mr Malema and what drives him and what we talked about and so on.

"But I do want to say this about him... unlike the impression I think in the media, he is an extremely smart person."

Deep respect for educators

Jansen said the second thing that was "amazing" about Malema was that he had a deep respect for education, teachers and professors.

After the October 29 meeting Malema surprisingly came out in full support of Jansen's stand on the Reitz issue.

"Jansen is one of our own," Malema told students at the time. "We cannot feed Jansen to the enemy."

 The UFS rector also spoke about his emotional encounter with the youth league's leader in the Free State, Thebe Meeko, which came after Jansen's meeting with Malema.

"At the end of this meeting with Mr Malema I said, as if I didn't know who it was, I said, where is Mr [Meeko]."

"He put up his hand, and I took him into my office."

"He stood at the far side of the office I said come towards me and he was very hesitant to do that."

"I said don't worry, come, and he came."


"I went towards him and I took my two arms and I put it around him and I said 'I need you to know that I love you very much and I think you will still become a good leader'."

"I wish I could describe to you that emotional moment for him and for me. I wish I could tell you the full apology that came quickly.

"And I wish I could tell you the sense that he had and I had, that there is another way for getting out of our troubles."

Meeko told supporters last month after the readmission decision that Jansen was "a criminal like these racist young students".

"We agree with the president of the ANC, shoot and kill a criminal," he said.

Does have shameful thoughts

Jansen told the press club he remembered the days when South Africans said their country would never become like Zimbabwe or Rwanda.

But they had to find another way of talking to each other, and dealing with their bitterness and hatred, or they would not be far from going down that road.

Jansen emphasised that the decision to readmit the four students had nothing to do with the criminal case that had been opened against them, or a looming civil action.

"They will be and in my view should be accountable in those processes," he said.

"This has simply to do with the decision universities make every single day which is a decision about who studies and who gets expelled and who gets readmitted."

He criticised South Africans for standing on a podium of self-righteousness, and said he regretted not having the courage to admit in a radio interview earlier this month that he himself was a racist.

Jansen, who is coloured, said he tried every day to be generous, honest and equitable.

But he could not guarantee that he did not have thoughts which were shameful, and that he did not feel hatred towards whites for what they did to his family under apartheid.