Bilal Randeree
Bilal Randeree

Julius fails Rhodes

“Julius Malema is a bit of an idiot,” claimed Jonathan Griffiths, a cartoonist and Rhodes student, while waiting outside the General Lecture Theatre for the 5pm lecture by ANC Youth League national chairman Julius Malema at Rhodes University on Thursday March 19. By 4.45pm already, dozens of students were gathered at the entrance of the lecture venue trying to get in. “But the scary thing is that he apparently has lots of power and influence,” said Griffiths.

Policemen blocked the doorway and were not letting more people in “because the venue was full,” said a waiting student. ANC members were upset at a group of activists from the Gender Action Project (GAP), that were inside the venue holding up placards with controversial statements made by Malema and Jacob Zuma.

Lecture organisers announced that “Malema was prevented by the university for coming to speak” and some people left, but most ANC members remained and were singing and dancing. They sang political songs and then became aggressive to the GAP members and sang Umshini Wami (Bring Me My Machine Gun) and other war songs.

A speech was delivered by Buti Manamela, secretary-general of the Young Communist League (YCL), who encouraged youth to vote and campaign “door to door, night club to night club” for the ANC. He ridiculed UDM leader Bantu Holomisa and had the crowd hysterical with jokes about Cope and other political parties.

Manamela said that “Rhodes (University) exists within a community and is not an ivory tower. It is part of South Africa and part of Grahamstown, and it needs to be a reflection of this community”.

Manamela again claimed that Malema had been prevented by the university from speaking. Larissa Klazinga, the student services officer, claimed that this was not true. And Luzuko Buku, chairperson of Rhodes YCL, later confirmed that the university did not prevent Malema from speaking. Despite video footage from news reports that confirmed the organisers had announced that “Malema had been prevented”, Buku denied that such claims were made.

The national anthem was sung immediately after the speech and the event called to a close. The GAP members were angered by the absence of a Q&A session and shouted out. They claimed they had been quietly waiting to ask questions and “this was their right”. This led to a verbal confrontation between the activists and ANC members, which had to be diffused by campus security.

Links to video clips from the event: