UPDATE | Malema apologises: Attack on Ramaphosa 'a desperate act of personal defence'

EFF leader Julius Malema. (Gallo Images)
EFF leader Julius Malema. (Gallo Images)

EFF leader Julius Malema followed President Cyril Ramaphosa's cue on Thursday, offering an apology to the first citizen and South Africa over domestic abuse claims that surfaced in Parliament and admitting he should have known better.

"I stood in Parliament to return the same hand to him, his departed wife, Nomazizi, and his entire family. I was, however, drowned out by ruling party benches without any protection from presiding officers," Malema said in a statement. 

Earlier on Thursday, Ramaphosa apologised for ANC MP Boy Mamabolo's accusation made in the House that Malema had beaten his wife, decrying the politicisation of gender-based violence.

During the State of the Nation Address (SONA) last Thursday, Mamabolo made the claim that Malema assaulted his wife. During Malema's speech on Tuesday this week, he repeated the claim when Malema took the unusual step of allowing a question during his speech.

Malema responded that he had never laid a hand on his wife, and then claimed Ramaphosa had beaten his late former wife, Nomazizi Mtshotshisa, who died in 2008 at age 63.

The two have been criticised by different sections of society over the claims, with the president saying he had also received several letters about the incident.

'Accusation was uncalled for'

While concluding his response to the debate on SONA, Ramaphosa, without mentioning Mamabolo by name, said his accusation was uncalled for and apologised to Malema and his family.

"Honourable Malema, I must say, as the allegation was made against you, I felt for Mantoa, your wife. It was uncalled for, it was improper, it was not correct for it to be raised," he said to applause.

When Ramaphosa was done, Malema rose to speak.

"I want to say to the president, my wife was insulted in front of the president during SONA and then five days later."

He added it was only when he said something, did somebody speak out.

At this point, ANC MPs yelled he should sit down. The chairperson of the National Council of Provinces, Amos Masondo, told Malema to stop speaking and sit down as the meeting was in the process of adjourning.

Malema, who on Tuesday declared he was in charge in Parliament, sat down.

Apologising to Ramaphosa

He released a statement on Thursday evening, apologising to Ramaphosa, saying he had stood up in Parliament following Ramaphosa's apology to "return the same hand to him, his departed wife, Nomazizi, and his entire family".

"After a long discussion with my wife about the president's apology, I have decided to pen down the apology that I should have communicated on the platform of the joint sitting of Parliament where it belonged."

Malema said his wife was "assaulted through terrible, malicious and harmful comments" by Mamabolo during SONA, which he repeated in the media.  

"I never said anything, neither did the EFF. The same ANC MP stood once more and made the same comments during the debate, five days after the initial moment during SONA. Still, we did nothing to dignify these comments with a response.

"It was at this stage that my response to SONA was disrupted through many points of order, demanding that I give dignity to the harmful comments about my wife with a response.

"On all these occasions the ANC, in particular, the president did nothing despite the fact that when the ANC member concerned fired at me and my wife, he stood, on all occasions, right next to the president and ANC chief whip.

"Each time we avoided the question because of its sensitivity, members of the ANC confused this to mean cowardice or worse, that I had something to hide."

He said he eventually answered with all the truthfulness he could muster under oath. 

'I have never laid a hand on my wife'

"I would like to reiterate that I have never laid a hand on my wife or any other woman in my life."

Malema said if any evidence was produced to the contrary, he would resign as an MP and president of the EFF, even before the matter was heard in a court.

"To this extent, it is fair to read the actions of this ANC MP as a collective action by the entire ANC using the person of my wife, malicious and harmful gender-based violence allegations, to settle a political score. No other reading is possible because the allegations were repeated more than once, and at more than one sitting.

"In retrospect, I accept that I should have known better not to indulge myself in the same degeneration that the ANC caucus visited upon my person and that of my wife. It was therefore in a desperate act of personal defence which I now regret because of how critical the matter of gender-based violence is for all of us as a country.

"I hope the president can accept my apology, together with his family, which I offer sincerely.

"I also hope that such a degeneration never occurs again where ANC MPs use personal matters, masquerading in false and malicious accusations to score political points.

"I also would like to apologise to all South Africans who were offended in the process, in particular victims of gender-­based violence.

"In conclusion, I would like to mention that I have personally communicated my apology directly to President Ramaphosa in a phone call. I, therefore, hope that this puts the matter behind both of us."

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