Thursday, April 21, 2011

(NEWZIMBABWE) Malema surprises critics in witness stand

Malema surprises critics in witness stand
by Marius Bosch I Reuters
21/04/2011 00:00:00

SOUTH African youth leader Julius Malema, on trial for "hate speech", surprised critics with a polished performance in the witness box, denting perceptions that he is simply a dangerous militant.

"Be warned, this man is not insignificant," popular radio talk show host John Robbie, a long time critic of Malema, said on Thursday after his testimony on Wednesday.

Malema faces "hate speech" charges brought by the Afrikaner civil rights group Afriforum over his singing of an anti-apartheid song containing a reference to "shoot the Boer (Afrikaner)".

The trial in South Africa's Equality Court in Johannesburg began 10 days ago and saw several leaders of the ruling African National Congress defend Malema, who arrived at court flanked by several bodyguards carrying assault rifles.
The judge last week banned the bodyguards from court.

Malema's drive for nationalisation of the country's giant mines has unnerved investors in the world's No. 4 gold producer and his militant speeches nearly 17 years after the end of apartheid have scared many white South Africans.
The government has repeatedly said nationalisation is not its policy.

Malema took the stand on Wednesday, deftly answering questions from Afriforum's advocate and even relating how he was given a pistol by the ANC at age 9 to attend the funeral of venerated ANC leader Chris Hani -- gunned down by a member of the white right wing in 1993.

Whites calling into Robbie's show on Thursday said they were surprised by Malema's testimony.

"Having been a critic of him for a very long time ... he did come across to me as very, very sincere," said one caller who gave her name as Annie and said she was an Afrikaner.
On microblogging website Twitter remarks showed Malema had changed the view of many South Africans.

"I think this case has proven that Malema is a lot smarter than some in the media might have believed," said Twitter user Mxolisi Jaza.

Malema, leader of the ANC Youth League since 2008, says he is only fighting to improve the lives of the poor and jobless.

To remain relevant to the Youth League and its constituency, he had to be militant and radical, Malema told the court.

"I belong to a very radical and militant youth organisation and if you are not radical and militant, you risk being irrelevant.

Independent political analyst Nic Borain said by taking Malema to court, his Afrikaner opponents have shot themselves in the foot.

"The fact that he has landed up in court as the person accused of singing (the song) is such a coup for him," he said.

"Don't underestimate the guy ... he serves a political purpose for the ANC."

Malema’s interview with the BBC HARDtalk programme last week also surprised an international audience for whom, from the media reports, Malema was nothing other than a Robert Mugabe disciple bent on reverse racism.

“Steven Sackur thought he had come to unravel this new black buffoon on the block, but instead it was him who ended up scurrying from the weightier issues seeking refuge in personal trivia,” said the UK-based Zimbabwean blogger and researcher, Innocent Chofamba Sithole.

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