Malema prosecution the right thing to do

Julius Malema addresses the media outside the home of the late struggle icon Winnie Madikizela-Mandela at Orlando West. (Veli Nhlapo, Gallo Images, Sowetan, file)
Julius Malema addresses the media outside the home of the late struggle icon Winnie Madikizela-Mandela at Orlando West. (Veli Nhlapo, Gallo Images, Sowetan, file)

AfriForum is and will remain convinced that the organisation's decision to privately prosecute Julius Malema – if the corruption charges against him are not reinstated – is the right thing to do and therefore continues with it at full steam. 

The decision to ensure that Malema is prosecuted is a well-considered decision that was taken well-knowing that Max du Preez and a few of his co-commentators who have one or another fixation on AfriForum, as well as the anti-white brigade on social media would, as usual, react to it hysterically. For this reason, unfounded criticism such as in Du Preez's article "The honourable thing for AfriForum to do" will not discourage AfriForum; on the contrary, AfriForum views this as an indication that the organisation is on the right path. 

Du Preez's assumption, namely that reaction to AfriForum's plans to prosecute Malema was "overwhelmingly negative", is based on "reaction in the mainstream and on social media". 

Regarding the negative comments about AfriForum by a few commentators in the "mainstream media", I think the following expression is apt: "Published opinion should not be confused with public opinion." Du Preez himself is a good example. 

Just because some media are dishing up his and a few other anti-AfriForum commentators' opinions almost unceasingly to listeners and readers week after week, does not mean that the viewpoints of Du Preez and his allies are now representative of the "public opinion". The opposite is rather true.  

The same goes for Du Preez's thoughtless assumption that social media gives a good indication of the "negative" attitude towards AfriForum. If social media and especially the so-called "black Twitter" are used as measurement, one could think that most people in South Africa are anti-white racists, vote EFF and view land expropriation and white racism as the country's most significant focus points. This while we all know that the EFF's support is limited to about 8% of the population. 

Research by the Institute of Race Relations also shows that fewer than 4% of people in the country view racism and land reform as the most significant focus points, and that the vast majority of white as well as black people maintain healthy human relations with each other. 

Julius Malema and his followers use social media to try and spread fear among those who differ from him. Max du Preez and others who have become so nervous about Malema and Co's threats that they choose to rather lay low and keep quiet, play right into Malema's hand by strengthening the impression he already has that he is untouchable.  

Regarding Julius Malema, AfriForum could have chosen to react in one of three ways: We could, for the sake of a false and unsustainable peace, also have decided to do nothing and lay low; or we could, as counter reaction to Malema, have turned to the same types of hate speech and threatening statements; or we could have opposed Malema's destructive actions in a calm and reasonable, yet firm and peaceful manner.  

But, different from Du Preez, AfriForum believes that laying low and not doing anything is no option. When someone like Malema acts as if he is above the law and everyone is too scared to act against him, he will also see this as a sign of weakness and will act more and more destructively. 

 The second option, namely to turn to similar destructive actions as counter reaction to those of Malema, is also not an option for AfriForum. AfriForum strives towards promoting mutual recognition and respect between communities. To keep silent about Malema would not promote respect between communities, as this would give Malema the green light to continue his polarising actions.  
AfriForum therefore decided on the third option, namely to act calmly and reasonably, yet firmly and within the framework of the law by pressurising the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) into reinstating the corruption charges against Malema. Should the NPA decline to do so, Adv Gerrie Nel will start a process to prosecute Malema privately on behalf of AfriForum. 
AfriForum's strategy has already been proven successful. The NPA, who refused to prosecute Duduzane Zuma for culpable homicide, has now turned around and decided to prosecute Zuma Jr after AfriForum had announced that the organisation would prosecute him privately on behalf of the Dube family if the NPA would not do its work. If AfriForum had not acted against Zuma Jr from fear of being imputed, there would not have been any justice for the Dube family. 

If AfriForum – as Du Preez suggests – decided not to prosecute Malema from fear of being imputed, there wouldn't be justice for tax payers and recipients of state grants, because it is, in fact, these people who were disadvantaged by Malema's plundering of the fiscus as a result of the tender corruption that he committed.

The allegations that actions against Malema would strengthen his position are also a misconception. These same allegations were made in 2011 when AfriForum successfully charged Malema with hate speech. He then sat comfortably in the saddle as the ruling party's youth leader. Although he initially attempted to make a short-term profit from the case, it eventually caused him to be kicked out of the ANC and reduced to the leader of an 8% party.

Malema's 8% means that he can only have a big impact on policy when the ruling party or the official opposition allows him to throw his weight around. 

Regarding the corruption case against Malema, he will once again try to gain a short-term profit from it, but in the medium to long term a conviction in an independent court of law would clip his wings and send a clear message that no one is above the law.  

- Kriel is CEO of AfriForum.

Disclaimer: News24 encourages freedom of speech and the expression of diverse views. The views of columnists published on News24 are therefore their own and do not necessarily represent the views of News24.

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