Expelled ANC Youth League president Julius Malema and the defence department are set to clash as he moves his political road show to the military.
The government has described a planned meeting at which disaffected soldiers are expected to voice their grievances against the South African National Defence Force (SANDF) to Malema, as a “counter-revolutionary” move that will not be tolerated, vowing to crack down on any member of the military who participates.
The Friends of the Youth League, a group formed shortly after Malema’s expulsion from the ANC was ratified in late April, claim SANDF soldiers invited the controversial youth leader to meet them in Lenasia on Wednesday.
“The meeting and ultimate address is as a result of the pleas and requests the armed forces, soldiers of the SANDF, sent to president Julius Malema to come listen to and voice the military and soldiers’ cries and demands,” the group said.
According to an Friends of the Youth League statement, Malema will listen to soldiers’ demands and “speak on the solutions” that will end “unnecessary starvation and threats of dismissals” of soldiers.
“For a considerable amount of time now, South Africa’s important component of its defence force has been marginalised and threatened with dismissal whenever they raise genuine concerns about conditions of work and salaries they receive as workers,” it said.
SANDF members staged an aggressive protest in Pretoria in 2009, marching to the Union Buildings in protest over poor salaries and adverse working conditions. Tshwane police used rubber bullets and teargas to disperse the approximately 1 000 soldiers after they trashed surrounding streets, damaged cars and set a military vehicle alight.
It still remains unclear as to which members of the SANDF Malema will be addressing and how many are expected at the gathering.
The meeting is being convened even as a recently established SANDF commision sets out to deal with issues relating to the conditions of service for soldiers. A military ombud was also appointed shortly after the 2009 protests, to deal with grievances.
In response, the minister of defence and military veterans, Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula, has labelled the meeting “counter-revolutionary”.
“There has been no permission granted by the command structures of the SANDF for any soldiers to participate in the proposed gathering. Any members who participate in such a meeting without proper permission will be subjected to the disciplinary code of the SANDF,” she said.
Mapisa-Nqakula said instability cannot be sown in the South African military.
“The SANDF is the last line of defence of both the sovereignty and integrity of the country and we cannot allow anyone to play political football with this institution. It is simply not going to be tolerated,” she added.
However, Mapisa-Nqakula did not specify how the meeting was going to be prevented.
The ANC has refused to comment on Malema’s action. “We have chosen not to comment on Mr Malema’s antics as he is no longer a member of the party,” spokesperson Keith Khoza said.
The presidency has also refused to comment on Malema’s actions.
“The person you are talking about is known for making wild and outlandish statements and I will not lend them credence by responding to them,” Zuma’s spokesperson Mac Maharaj told the M&G.
Friends of the Youth League spokesperson Floyd Shivambu said the meeting will go ahead as planned. “No one is going to stop us from doing anything,” Shivambu told the M&G.
“This is going ahead whether they like it or not. Julius Malema has been called to talk to the people and he will do that.”
The meeting follows Malema’s latest calls on Tuesday to make South African mines ungovernable.
He visited the Gold Fields KDC mine in Carletonville where workers have downed tools and are calling for a wage increase.
“If they don’t hear our demands, we will strike for five days a month until they listen,” he said.
Malema also used the occasion to say President Jacob Zuma is preventing economic change in the mining sector.
“It’s no secret President Zuma is being paid to protect the mines. His family trusts are being paid. You can’t touch the mines … Zuma doesn’t care about the workers. He doesn’t care about you. Our leaders are in bed with the capitalists,” he said.
His visit to KDC marked his fourth visit to a mine since the shooting of 34 workers at the hands of police at Lonmin platinum mine in the North West, following a protracted labour dispute that is still ongoing.
“The Marikana struggle must go to all the mines. R12 500 is a reality … We are going to the mines and spreading this revolution. Next week we are in Lephalale. The struggle continues, comrades,” he said on Tuesday.
Malema has used his visits to Lonmin, the Grootvlei gold mine on the East Rand and Gold Fields’ operations in Westonaria to call for a mining revolution, which he claims will lead to an overall political revolution in the country. The former youth league president has been well received on each visit, with miners singing his praises and some even calling for him to be elected as president of the country.
All the while during his visits, Malema claims to be representing the ANC, and says his expulsion was effected by a faction within the ruling party.
It is understood he is canvassing support to be readmitted to the ANC at its elective conference in Mangaung this December.