A firebrand South African youth leader today threw a BBC journalist out of a press conference, accusing him of “white tendency” and calling him a “bastard”, “bloody agent” and “small boy”. Julius Malema, president of the youth wing of the African National Congress, exploded in rage when Jonah Fisher, a white Briton, interrupted him at the ANC’s headquarters in Johannesburg.
The following is a reproduction of the exchanges at the Luthuli House Headquarters of the ANC:
MALEMA: These popcorn and mushrooming political parties in Zimbabwe, they will never find friendship in us. They can insult us here from air conditioned offices of Sandton, we are unshaken. They must stop shouting at us. They must go and fight for their battle in Zimbabwe and win. If they got ground and they are formed on the basis of solid ground in Zim why are they speaking in Sandton and not Mashonaland or Matabeleland?
There is nothing Sandton in Zimbabwe. There is everything about the Zimbabwean. Let them go back and fight there. Even when the ANC was underground in exile, we had our internal underground forces fighting for freedom, and we have never spoken from exile.
JOHN FISHER INTERJECTS: You live in Sandton?
MALEMA: Let me tell you before you are tjatjarag (excitable) this is a building of a revolutionary party and you know nothing about the revolution.
FISHER: So they’re not welcome in Sandton but you are?
MALEMA: Here you behave or else you jump.
FISHER: This is becoming a joke.
MALEMA: Don’t laugh!
MALEMA: Chief, (points at the back of the room), can you get security to remove this thingy.
If you are not going to behave, we are going to get security to take you out. This is not a newsroom this, this is a revolutionary house and you don’t come here with that white tendency, not here. You can do it somewhere else, not here.
If you have got a tendency of undermining blacks even where you work, you are in the wrong place. Here you are in the wrong place, and you can go out.
FISHER: But that’s rubbish!
MALEMA: You can go out … rubbish is what you have covered in that trouser – that is rubbish. That which you have covered in [your] clothes is rubbish, ok?
You are a small boy you can’t do anything. Go out … bastard! Go out! You bloody agent!
We cannot be allowed to be undermined in our own terrain, you can do that in your own offices, but here, once you come in here – this is not a playground, this is Luthuli House. It’s the headquarters of a revolutionary party which has liberated the people of South Africa.
Here, you come, you restrain yourself and behave in a manner that is befitting of being in the head quarters of the ANC. It’s not a beer-hall here, it’s not a drunk beer-hall – cheap beer-hall, this. And you ask anybody including political parties which tried to undermine this house what happened to them.
You can undermine all of us but not the house. Never undermine the house. When you are here, you are in a different terrain. You are in our space and you are going to behave in a manner that is befitting of being in the ANC office.
You don’t howl here especially when we speak and you behave like you are in an American press conference? This is not America, it’s Africa.
You must behave in an African way. If you are in Rome, you do as the Romans do. These things you write about us and insulting us, that is your space [and] you can do as you wish. We don’t have a problem with that and we have accepted that you are abusing that space [and] you are abusing us in that space.
[But] you don’t come and abuse us in our own space, in our own house. This is my house and you will behave according to the rules of my house. We are not forcing anybody to be here. If you feel you are offended by the removal of this gentleman, you are most welcome to walk, you are free to go.
We don’t force anybody to come here. We would be worried if the SABC doesn’t come, but the rest of you to be honest, we really don’t care. SABC is our own but the rest, it’s ok whether you come or you don’t come. We don’t have a problem.
And if you feel offended in solidarity with this gentleman, like the solidarity of other journalists who connived with a corrupt journalist which was exposed by the Youth League, you are again free to walk. The corridors are open.
Let’s not push each other to a point where we will have to engage each other differently because we are not going to be undermined by young boys and then we say ‘no, we need to restrain ourselves’.
When we are in the BBC studios you can pull us around and say whatever. You do that anyway when we have interviews with you. You just come in when we try to respond and you ask further questions … we never fight with you at that level, that’s your space. But here, my brother, you need to ask the South Africans – if you’re not – what the ANC is and what does the head quarters of the ANC mean to them.
So these are the headquarters of the ANC and we behave accordingly and like I said, if you fell offended, you can walk. There is no problem. And this is not a threat to media freedom. Media freedom without limitations and journalists just running amok and wanting to undermine us like that – we are human beings.
We are not going to be looted here and harassed by journalists. You can do that to the elders and not to us. We are the youth and we will act in a youthful manner, if you know what it means. So that is how we will act on anybody that seeks to undermine us. The ANC is going to revive liberation movements all over Africa.