South Africa's ANC Asks Police to Probe Malema for Treason

Updated on
  • ANC brings formal request to police to probe Julius Malema
  • Malema on al-Jazeera threatened to oust government by force

South Africa’s ruling African National Congress asked the police to investigate whether to charge an opposition leader, Julius Malema, with treason after al-Jazeera television quoted him as threatening to oust President Jacob Zuma’s government “through the barrel of a gun.’’

The ANC made a formal accusation against Malema at a police station in Johannesburg late Monday, the party’s national spokesman, Zizi Kodwa, said by phone Tuesday. “The utterances and conduct are treasonable and that’s why we went to lay a charge and called on the South African Police Service to investigate,” Kodwa said.

Al-Jazeera quoted Malema as saying in an interview that while the EFF prefers to fight political battles through the courts and parliament, it will consider using force against the government if the authorities respond violently to party protesters.

“We will run out of patience very soon and we will remove this government through the barrel of a gun,” he said, according to al-Jazeera.

Malema’s Economic Freedom Fighters and the largest opposition party, the Democratic Alliance, are trying to end the ANC’s control of key cities such as Pretoria, the capital, Johannesburg and Port Elizabeth in municipal elections on Aug. 3. Malema, 35, led the EFF to become the second-biggest opposition party less than a year after it was formed in 2013 following his expulsion from the ANC for insulting senior leaders and allegedly bringing the party into disrepute.

Illegitimate Violence

Police Minister Nkosinathi Nhleko Tuesday said the police will investigate the ANC’s charge against Malema.

James Grant, an attorney at the South African High Court, said Malema probably wouldn’t face a treason charge over his comments.

“I don’t believe, from what I read, that it is a call to violence unconditionally,” he said by phone. “It was very clear, from what I can read, that it is conditional on government itself using illegitimate violence. That is a very well recognized right in our law to respond with violence to illegitimate violence.”

The EFF stands by Malema and is prepared to argue the issue in court, said the party’s secretary-general, Godrich Gardee.

Court Confrontation

“Bring it on, we will meet in court,” he said by phone. “Julius Malema is the face, the leader and president of the Economic Freedom Fighters and any charge laid against him on any political comments he made is against the party and the 1.2 million people who voted for us.”

The police are required to investigate the ANC’s complaint and then place the evidence they gather with a prosecutor, who will decide if there is a case to answer, Grant said.

“The question is going to be whether there’s a prima facie case, and from what I’m seeing, because his statements were conditional, that seems to me to remove him from having stepped over the line,” Grant said.

Calls for Zuma, 73, to step down by ANC veterans, church and civil-society organizations and business leaders have intensified since the Constitutional Court ruled on March 31 that the president “failed to uphold, defend and respect the constitution.” His administration is struggling to revive a stagnating economy and cut a 25 percent unemployment rate.

ANC spokesman Kodwa said Malema’s comments could incite violence during the local election campaign.

“We are doing this to protect and defend our hard-earned democracy because for anyone to make a statement that they are prepared to remove a democratically elected government through undemocratic means such as ‘through the barrel of a gun’ is a serious threat,” Kodwa said.

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