Malema not to ‘play football’ with the defence force
JOHANNESBURG – South Africa’s defence minister has warned Julius Malema, the ousted leader of the African National Congress’s Youth League, against inciting soldiers at a planned speech yesterday, and told troops not to attend.
Malema, who was booted from the African National Congress’s Youth League this year for ill-discipline and after he was convicted of hate speech, has in recent weeks stirred deep feelings at strife-hit gold and platinum mines, calling for more wildcat strikes after mass shootings by police.
Even though he no longer has any official political role, the 31-year-old firebrand remains an inflammatory figure in South African discourse and planned to speak to soldiers at a recreation centre near a military base in Johannesburg later Wednesday.
Defence Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula told The Times newspaper that any bid to destabilise the military would be acted on, and she called on soldiers and the public to stand back from Malema’s actions.
“It is not going to be tolerated,” she told The Times.
Of Malema’s many comments in recent weeks around the mines crisis, a stand-out remark was his call to make the mining sector “ungovernable”.
Mapisa-Nqakula said Malema would not be permitted to make similar calls for the military.
“The SANDF (South African National Defence Force) is the last line of defence of the sovereignty of the country. We cannot allow anyone to play political football with this institution,” she said.
Malema’s spokesman said in a statement that yesterday’s planned military address was “the result of requests sent by the armed forces to Malema to come and listen to their cries and demands.”
It was not clear how many troops planned on attending event and no soldiers were given official approval. Troops were warned that going to the speech would result in disciplinary action.