'We don't want Umshini Wam - we want laptops and iPads'
Julius Malema's R4.6-million money-laundering charge and a R16-million tax bill have sown ugly rifts within the ruling party - this time pitting the ANC's headquarters against its Limpopo provincial executive committee.
The ANC yesterday distanced itself from accusations that the charges were politically motivated, a move meant to distance Malema's archrivals - including President Jacob Zuma - from the barrage of criminal prosecutions he is currently facing.
In a stern warning to those stirring up an internal ANC revolt and drumming up sympathy and support for Malema, the ruling party said it would not entertain "inflammatory and unsubstantiated accusations against the ANC and government agencies".
Referring to a statement issued by the Limpopo provincial executive committee on Tuesday in which it claimed state resources were being used to settle political scores, ANC national spokesman Jackson Mthembu hit back, saying: "We reject this accusation with contempt as it is misleading and seeking to undermine the rule of law and jurisprudence of the country."
After almost two years of investigations by several law enforcement agencies, Malema appeared in the Polokwane Magistrate's Court yesterday. He was released on R10000 bail.
In a show of support, several Limpopo provincial leaders - including Clifford Motsepe, Soviet Lekganyane, Joshua Matlou, Pinky Kekana and Lawrence Mapoulo - attended court proceedings.
The ANC's Limpopo provincial executive committee - on which Malema's close ally, Premier Cassel Mathale, sits - said Malema's woes were a "clear indication that abuse of power by the state is again taking place in South Africa".
Limpopo ANC's Makondelele Mathivha said: "The PEC unanimously agreed that these state actions against the young man [Malema] are not backed by a genuine case to fight against corruption and fraud, but by a repressive political intent to erode hard-won rights of citizens to gather, express themselves, associate with other persons or groupings, affiliate to organisations of their own choosing; generally the right to freedom of association, speech and so on."
The committee said Malema's removal by police from Marikana was a "clear demonstration of this erosion of the entrenched freedoms".
This is the second time Malema has caused serious divisions in the ANC. Last year, ANC Youth League members turned violent and burned Zuma T-shirts as Malema faced disciplinary charges.
But Mthembu said the accusations by Limpopo's ANC members were attempts to "prejudge the case before it has even started".
"The charges have been preferred by competent institutions that derive from our constitution. We want to put it on record that we have confidence in our state institutions to discharge their duties without any political motive.
"We want to state categorically that the ANC, its president, Comrade Jacob Zuma, and its leadership have no role in the charges," Mthembu said.
He said the accusations by Limpopo ANC and the y outh league were an insult to law-enforcement agencies, including the judiciary.
"We want to appeal to our structures and to all South Africans to refrain from using inflammatory and unsubstantiated accusations against the ANC and government agencies."
The rift between the ANC top brass erupted as Malema, outside court in Polokwane, hurled insults against the National Prosecuting Authority and Zuma.
"They [National Prosecuting Authority] brought me here for nothing, they want to appear on TV on my name. They want to use my name to steal fame. These thieves. Jacob Zuma the thief! Jacob Zuma, they dropped charges, he had 700 [corruption] charges dropped against him. I have one charge against me.
"We are ready to answer to any charge against us. This is not a disciplinary committee of Cyril Ramaphosa, who buys buffaloes for R18-million," Malema said.
An "unshaken" Malema questioned the NPA's case against him, saying: "This is not a DC for buffaloes, this is a court of law. You must prove beyond reasonable doubt about what we did, do you have evidence?
"We are not saying that our charges must be dropped. We have presented ourselves, we are not hiding anything. We are not like the head of state who runs away from the courts, who calls for umshini wam to shoot the courts. We don't want umshini wam', we want laptops and iPads so that we can prepare our answers to the courts."