President Jacob Zuma on Saturday tore into ANC Youth League (ANCYL) president Julius Malema over his calls for a regime change in Botswana – hours before the league abruptly withdrew its statement on that country.
The league said it felt the “leadership of the ANC took serious exception to the statement and classified that statement as a transgression of the ANC’s Constitution and policies”.
In an exclusive interview with City Press in Durban on Saturday, Zuma for the first time spoke out against Malema’s calls for regime change in Botswana.
In a pre-emptive strike before publication, the league apologised and promised to “whenever expected, be available to listen to political and organisational guidance from the leadership”.
Zuma told City Press that the youth league’s comments on Botswana were “not in keeping with our policies, whether on a government or ANC level”.
Not like the apartheid government
“We are not going to be like the apartheid government and interfere with our neighbours. We promote good neighbourliness and we don’t interfere in the internal affairs of other people,” Zuma said.
He said that while Malema’s earlier utterances on Zimbabwe and Libya had been “talked through politically”, the Botswana comments “went far beyond that in every respect”.
“If you start talking about sending a command or unit to go in and engage in political activity to change the government of a country, that is a very serious statement. You therefore need a different kind of intervention to ordinary political discussion,” he said.
Zuma said Malema’s comments suggested that the youth league saw the Botswana government as illegitimate.
“The ANCYL looks at Botswana as if the government was not elected by the people of Botswana. If you are a democrat, you have to understand democracy. In Botswana, there are regular elections and this government was elected by the people of Botswana.”
In a rare case of eating humble pie, the league promised to “never define itself outside the policy confines and directives of the ANC”.
ANC spokesperson Jackson Mthembu said the damage done to Zuma’s image, and to the ANC and the government, “will not be changed with an apology”, indicating the ANC will not drop the matter.
“The matter is now beyond the youth league. The ANC will now weigh this up, apology or no apology,” Mthembu said.
Zuma said he was sure Botswana understood these were not the views of the ANC or government, but of the youth league “thinking in its own way”.
Zuma also promised action against those who were fingered in the public protector’s report about dodgy police leases, saying he was “almost at the end’’ of examining it and would “certainly have to take action”.
Zuma defended his administration’s approach to fighting corruption.
“I personally have signed off on at least 18 investigations. You cannot say that this current administration has done less than what happened before.
“I think we are doing our best to fight corruption. In fact, we are even talking about changing tender procedures to tighten the rules and limit the possibilities for corruption, something that has never been discussed before,” he said.
Some of the ANC’s allies are unhappy with the apparent lack of speed in dealing with National Police Commissioner Bheki Cele and Minister of Public Works Gwen Mahlangu-Nkabinde.
Cosatu’s Patrick Craven said Cosatu was unhappy that the president seemed to be stalling.
“There is an element of indecisiveness that we of course would prefer not to have. Of course he has time to look into issues, particularly in respect of the police leases, but it is taking too long.”
ANC Veterans’ League president Sandi Sejake said Zuma was “indulging the enemy” by dragging his feet in acting against those fingered in Madonsela’s report.
“If you engage in corruption, you are part of the enemy. If you take so long to act, you are indulging the enemy. Zuma must show that he agrees with the Public Protector, especially because she has been threatened about these things.”
On Malema’s Botswana threats“There are certain things that have been said that are verging on disciplinary action. The officials (of the ANC) have been discussing the matter and must have decided what needs to be done, but I don’t think they want to say that publicly now.’’
On Swaziland"There has been an unfortunate kind of sentiment that Zuma is giving his friend a favour. This is not true. This is a loan, not a grant, which is clearly spelled out when it comes to how it is going to be paid back.”
On the Public Protector’s report“I am almost towards the end of my process and once that comes, we will almost certainly have to take action. I don’t think people should be in a hurry. We are acting against corruption, but we can’t act outside the procedure."