In a video posted by the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) on Twitter, party leader Julius Malema addresses the media at the Equality Court following a two-day case which saw the South African National Editors Forum (Sanef) and five journalists seeking to interdict the EFF from intimidating, harassing, or assaulting members of the media.
Judgment in the case has been reserved.
Malema expressed the view that the Sanef was only being used in the case to defend Minister of Public Enterprises Pravin Gordhan, and cast aspersions on the legal abilities of advocate Daniel Berger, who represented Sanef.
“Sanef just brought a junior council here to come destroy his career before it even started, and I’m considering [giving] him an opportunity in the next [EFF] case to redeem himself, where he will deal with real cases, where he will present very clear legal arguments before the court,” Malema said.
“The man can’t clarify the tweet between Mngxitama and some nobody and he attributes that to the EFF and when the judge says ‘but the man is responding to Mngxitama’ the man just got lost. It was like he’s [Jacob] Zuma during the commission looking for pages,” he said, before doing a comic impersonation of the former president.
On Tuesday in court, advocate Tembeka Ngcukaitobi, acting for the EFF, had brought up a tweet by Mngxitama, arguing that the backlash it caused was wrongly attributed to Malema and the EFF.
Malema believes that the case has shown that “there is confusion in the camp of the enemy”.
“We are more than happy that the loudmouths have come to expose themselves here,” he added. “There is nothing this court will find against the EFF.”
Sanef disagrees, with chairperson Mahlatse Mahlase telling media during an adjournment on Tuesday afternoon that the organisation was confident it would win the case, and had successfully shown a direct link between utterances made by Malema outside the Zondo commission of inquiry into state capture last year and threats and attacks which followed, from EFF supporters on Twitter.
In November last year, Malema told supporters outside the commission to “cut the head” of the enemy.
“Let’s attack, fighters. Let’s occupy every street, every house; every space in society. Let us not leave the enemy to chance. Where we meet the enemy, we must crush the enemy. On Facebook, Twitter, social media, be there, guard the revolution. When the enemy raises its ugly head, don’t hit the head, cut the head. No time to entertain enemies of revolution. We must protect the revolution at all costs,” he said at the time.
Later in the same speech he did, however, call on his followers not to show violence towards journalists he named.
“These people I’m mentioning them by name, you must engage with them from a civilised point of view. You must never be violent with them. Violence is for the empty heads. In the EFF, we thrive through superior logic. Some of them are women. You must be extremely gentle with them. And don’t use their gender status to attack them. Engage with them from an intellectual point of view. Display discipline and intellectual superiority when engaging with them.”
Before mocking Berger in the clip filmed at the Equality Court, in the High Court in Pretoria, Malema thanked his party’s legal representatives “for having presented a very clear case against the defenders of Pravin”.
“The matter is not between us and Sanef, the matter is between us and Pravin, and they are using Sanef to come and defend Pravin,” Malema alleged.
“We were speaking outside the commission against what Pravin was going to say in the commission, and Sanef took offence and came to the equality court, for what reason we don’t know, that’s why their advocates are struggling,” he said.
Malema’s utterances outside the commission did mention Gordhan, but were also directed at the media who he accused of ignoring allegations he had made against the minister. He also singled out various journalists who he said acted as the “Ramaphosa defence force”.
While he called on his followers not to show violence towards journalists, whether or not what he said next constituted hate speech is at the heart of Sanef’s case against the party.
“I’ve got many of them on my Twitter on my phone here. I talk to them all the time but I disagree with them. I don’t have to declare them enemies. I don’t have to kill them. I want them to live long, to see the success of the EFF. All we are asking from the media [is to] be honest,” Malema said.
Berger argued that this could be interpreted as a threat.
Malema, however, argued that the EFF was not guilty of hate speech but only “political speech,” which he claimed some wanted to suppress.
“The problem we have today in South Africa is that those with money want to suppress political speech and we must guard against that, because in the absence of political there is no opposition party,” he said.