HARARE – Goons accompanying visiting and expelled former ANC Youth League (ANCYL) president Julius Malema attacked a Daily News on Sunday crew when they sought to interview the controversial and self-proclaimed Zanu PF admirer at an expensive eatery in Harare yesterday.
The unprovoked attack — now a subject of police investigations under case number IR 101 288 — follows the arrival in Zimbabwe on Friday of the beleaguered ally-turned-arch-enemy of President Jacob Zuma.
The visit, coming as Malema faces a myriad setbacks back home in South Africa (SA), including money laundering and pending corruption charges, has raised suspicions about its motives, including the extent of his political collaboration with President Robert Mugabe’s party.
Bhethule Nkiwane, a photographer with the paper, was manhandled by three heavily-built goons, who threatened to inflict serious harm on him for taking pictures of the embattled ex-ANCYL leader as he and his entourage of about 12 people left the popular joint.
As this writer was also caught up in the Malema line of fire, the Associated Newspapers of Zimbabwe (ANZ) group editor Stanley Gama also witnessed the incident.
Among those accompanying Malema was top lieutenant and right-hand man Floyd Shivambu and Zanu PF youth league official Tongai Kasukuwere.
In the heat of the five-minute “scuffle”, the menacing bouncers took away Nkiwane’s photographic memory card after forcing him to delete photos of the once-swaggering South African politician.
And after the incident, the group drove away in two Range Rover sport utility vehicles — one black and the other silver — and three other posh cars, with Malema ensconced in the black Ranger Rover that was being driven by Kasukuwere.
Apart from yesterday’s invaluable collection of pictures, Gama said his young photographer had also lost other valuable photos from the prior weeks in the “mad and unprovoked assault”.
Despite his attempts to intervene and negotiate with Malema over a Daily News on Sunday interview about his visit and alleged financial relationship with Zanu PF, Gama’s efforts fell on deaf ears.
With the Limpopo-born rabble-rouser accused of receiving money from Mugabe’s party to destabilise Zuma’s government and probably distract him from effectively mediating in the Zimbabwean crisis, the Daily News on Sunday was seeking to establish from Malema his exact mission in the country.
In particular, the self-styled demagogue’s critics point to his “hijacking” of the Marikana massacres as one of those strategies to derail Zuma.
“Malema seemed calm and appeared interested in talking to my colleagues after exchanging pleasantries and greetings. But after the introductions, the goons pushed him aside and told our reporter to go to hell. It was sudden and unexpected,” Gama said.
“I tried to negotiate with Kasukuwere (Tongai) and Malema to ensure that the interview went ahead, but it was all in vain. The people around Malema were vicious, they looked like they wanted to kill somebody,” he added.
At the eatery, Malema’s hungry team blew $175 (R1 400) on the staple sadza — known in South Africa as pap — with chicken, oxtail and beef bones.
In SA, the ex-ANC firebrand is known for his lavish taste and swag, including top-of-the-range cars, R200 000 wrist watches and razing down a R3 million Sandhurst mansion for another R16 million property.
And as his political star continues to wane, Malema has also hit the headlines for a R16 million money laundering charge. He is out on a R10 000 bail.
The eastern-Harare fringe drama aside, the Daily News on Sunday was told that Malema on Friday attended a lavish party hosted by a top Zanu PF official in the leafy suburb of Highlands where there was a free flow of expensive booze and food.
According to sources, many of the who-is-who of Zanu PF, the well-heeled and beautiful of Harare attended the lavish party, whose purpose and funding is unknown.
Malema jetted into Zimbabwe on the pretext of gracing the wedding of Zanu PF youth secretary for commissariat Mike Gava.
Gava yesterday married deputy-secretary general of the Pan African Youth Union (PYU) and youth leader Tendai Wenyika in Chisipite.
The PYU is a representative body of youth movements across the African continent.
Wenyika, who is a younger sister to urban grooves diva Plaxedes, shot into the limelight after a mesmerising speech delivered in Malabo Equatorial Guinea during the 17th African Union Summit last year, whose theme was“Accelerating Youth Empowerment for Sustainable Development.”
Prior to the latest visit, several of Malema’s associates have been clandestinely in and out of the country since early this year under what sources say were business travels. – Daily News