On the eve of South Africa celebrating the 22nd anniversary of its first nonracial democratic election, the ministers of state security and police yesterday closed ranks to warn of forces working to destabilise the country.
They also warned of the reckless and inflammatory statements by certain leaders, which could have far-reaching implications if not handled or “dealt with immediately”.
Having painted a picture of a South Africa under siege, State Security Minister David Mahlobo lashed out at NGOs that were helping foreign agencies “destabilise” South Africa.
“Some of the NGOs can’t explain where their funding comes from and who their directors are,” said Mahlobo.
“Some of them can’t explain, for a nongovernmental organisation working in a democratic dispensation, why they have equipment we don’t even have.”
Police Minister Nathi Nhleko said everyone had the right to freedom of speech, but warned that it had limitations, “especially in cases where such utterances have the potential of plunging the country into chaos”.
He confirmed a case had been opened in Hillbrow against EFF leader Julius Malema this week.
Nhleko said it was in relation to his statement about taking up arms against the state. “Due process of investigation will be followed,” said Nhleko.
“We would like to appeal to all people to show responsibility and refrain from using the genuine grievances of communities to drive narrow political agendas that have the potential to destabilize the country.”
Mahlobo said Malema needed to understand that threats of a civil war were unacceptable and unconstitutional.
Briefing media after his department’s budget debate in parliament yesterday, he said that “propagating war” between the EFF and government would not be allowed.
In an interview with news agency Al Jazeera on Sunday, Malema said violence would be incited to remove the current ANC-led government.
He indicated that parliament’s rough-handedness in removing EFF MPs was reminiscent of action taken by the army to disperse protesting crowds.
“We will run out of patience very soon, and we will remove this government through the barrel of the gun,” he reportedly told Al Jazeera.
Mahlobo said no one could threaten South Africans and say it was right. “The issues of proliferation of guns and ammunition cannot be allowed,” said Mahlobo.
“The call to leadership is not an easy call, those of us who are in leadership must be able to build a nation, and these statements are not acceptable.”
Director-general Sonto Kudjoe questioned Malema’s standing as a leader.
“Today, they call him commander-in-chief,” said Kudjoe, adding that President Jacob Zuma was the person allowed to claim such a title.
“But we are asking a question about the comments made about engaging in a struggle against this current government.
“We call him the commander-in-chief, but I want to know [of] which army is Malema the commander-in-chief.” Mahlobo said the state security agency would take action against Malema over one complaint by the ANC. His department was not yet involved.
“There are announcers who are reckless, who are not fit to lead the nation, who are not [capable to] lead a nation, whose statements must be condemned by South Africans,” said Mahlobo.
“No one’s allowed to propagate war. It’s up to the courts to say to what extent this constitution has been violated. No South African, irrespective of right or position has a right to take us back [to racism], it’s unconstitutional.”