We said we would wait until the Julius Malema response to his suspension and it was worth its weight in gold.
The suspended ANC Youth League president laid into the disciplinary committee that found him guilty and suspended him for 5 years. He was also quite critical of heavyweights Gwede Mantashe and Jackson Mthembu both of whom are some of his biggest critics.
In essence, what he said was that he would not be accepting his conviction and therefore sentence. No appeal for leniency, Malema is going for broke. He went as far as to derogate the whole process accusing the National Disciplinary Committee (NDC) of everything but bestiality.
He also claimed he was a political victim and that the whole thing had nothing to do with discipline but the removal of his National Executive Council as well as an outright attempt to silence the ANCYL. Malema and his executive’s considered also added that the decision to suspend them was made before the hearing had taken place. In essence it was a kangaroo court meant to put on a show to legitimise a decision. They made this charge on the basis of Mantashe and Mthembu’s pronouncements before the hearing and during the the period leading up to the verdict.
He also went to challenge the constitutionality of the whole process, adding that the ANCYL was the only one which could decide on the fate of its NEC. He said it was up to the ANCYL to accept the findings of the NDC.
With all this, Malema has set his stall. He is essentially taking the fight directly to the ANC and has taken a win or bust approach to the whole matter. He has also made it interesting times for the appeals committee because his accusation of predisposition, has traction in some quarters of the political landscape. Susan Shabangu, for example is known to be critical of nationalisation which is something that Malema and the ANCYL have been agitating for.
Where Malema’s Achilles heel may be, assuming his accusations are credible – analysts we have spoken to seem to agree that at least some of them are – is with the Hawks issue. He was not at all convincing when asked about the issue. He was still defiant but not as gung-ho as when dealing with the suspension issue.
It is all or nothing for him right now. The reaction was no less than expected. He is fighting. The ANC leadership will of course respond. Does Malema have any other arguments or is he going to stick to this one? Can the ANC discredit it? If this is indeed a political assassination, isn’t the ANC leadership experienced enough to make sure that the ‘right outcome’ is achieved?
Whatever it is, this is an interesting time for South African politics. If Juju is to go, it won’t be quietly.