“Under President Zuma, we’ve seen the youth of the ANC being traumatised and expelled from their home,” said a fired-up Malema during an ANC centenary lecture in Johannesburg on Friday.
With his voice gradually intensifying in volume, Malema said Zuma’s leadership had suppressed the voice of the youth and replaced democracy with dictatorship.
“We’ve seen intolerance. People are impatient with the youth, people do not appreciate new opinions. They suppress new opinions,” he said to thunderous applause from a packed hall at Wits University.
Malema reiterated the fight for “economic freedom”, warning against the risk of being managed by illiterates.
“We can’t have economic freedom managed by illiterates. That government will collapse... It will be on autopilot because you don’t know where to take this government,” he said.
“We need sophisticated men and men and women and that’s why education is very important.”
Moving into the future the leadership debate should not be about credentials but about whether a person could understand inflation, Malema said to applause and laughter.
He accused the ANC of being selective in its decisions, particularly pertaining to the disciplinary procedures instituted against youth league leaders.
Malema said the league was praised as being militant when it criticised certain individuals, but was condemned as ill-disciplined when criticising others.
“It can’t be that others can be criticised an others can’t.”
Malema said not all ANC leaders were progressive, citing among those John Dube, founding president of the African National Congress whom he said went and formed another organisation.
Opinions by youth league leadership were possibly seen as a threat by the mother body, Malema said.
“Those are our observations. It cannot be entirely correct. Other people can differ,” he said.
Drawing ANC treasurer Mathews Phosa’s attention, Malema said it was nothing personal but that leadership must accept criticism.
“We must be honest and not pretend. We must give a true reflection of what’s happening,” he said.
“If you want to be pretenders, then you have chosen the wrong career.”
Malema said leadership must always welcome criticism because that built them into strong leaders.
“Beware comrade Mathews, when people stop criticising you, you must worry. But when they criticise you, it means they care.”
Malema, who is appealing his expulsion with the ANC’s national disciplinary committee of appeal chaired by Cyril Ramaphosa, questioned the logic behind disciplinary procedures instituted against him and other league leaders.
“What is so ill-disciplined about thinking? Let’s debate that. You’ve got the right to think even if we think of wrong things,” he said.
“You need no permission to think, you are born with it. It’s your birthright and your own baby to nurse.”
Malema charged that the league could not be punished for thinking.
While the league had made pronouncements on toppling Botswana’s government, it did not act on it. It was just a thought, he said, adding that the leadership of the African National Congress was expected to call them to order instead of disciplining them.
Malema was found guilty of sowing divisions within the party, partly for his statement on Botswana.
Phosa, who sat listening to Malema attacking Zuma’s leadership, had arrived with Malema an hour late to much excitement at the Wits University’s Great Hall.
He replaced national executive committee member and Sport Minister Fikile Mbalula who cancelled due to other commitments.
Phosa stressed that it was only fair that ANC members had a point of view the freedom to share it without fear.
“The ANC should be at the vanguard of protecting others’ rights, and it’s within the movement to differ from one another when necessary.”
A situation whereby there was unwillingness to differ, even publicly, put the liberation and the constitution in danger, he said.
“Ideas are spears of tomorrow. We must not blunt those spears.”
Speaking on leadership, Phosa said the power lay with no one else but the branches of the organisation.
Malema praised Phosa for not treating the youth league “like those who think we have political leprosy”.
“People are scared to associate with us. So when someone from leadership comes when requested, it inspires hope,” he said. “It tells us not all is lost and that we still have courageous leadership.”
Some students were restricted from entering the Great Hall as it was filled to capacity.
The turned-away group of students were directed to the foyer where they could watch proceedings through monitors mounted to the walls.
Earlier, youth league supporters sang and danced and sang struggle songs as they waited.
Some songs were in support of Malema, with some mocking Zuma as “troublesome shower man” and ANC secretary general Gwede Mantashe as the “troublesome goatee”.
The league has continuously voiced their preference for Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe to replace Zuma and Mbalula to replace Mantashe. - Sapa