Saturday, April 3, 2010
Julius Malema in Zimbabwe
Controversial South African youth leader visits Zimbabwe
Julius Malema, the firebrand South African youth leader who has been accused of inciting violence against white farmers, has received a hero's welcome in Zimbabwe.
By Jane Flanagan in Cape Town
Published: 2:18PM BST 03 Apr 2010
Mr Malema, head of the youth wing of the ruling African National Congress (ANC), touched down in Harare to be met with a loud chorus of "Shoot the Boer" – a refrain from an apartheid-era song which is now outlawed in South Africa.
The 29-year-old, who has been accused of inciting violence against South Africa's white population with his repeated renditions of the song Ayesaba Amagwala (The Cowards are Scared), will meet President Robert Mugabe on Monday as lavish celebrations begin to mark 30 years since he came to power.
Flanked by his own entourage and hordes of officials and activists loyal to Mr Mugabe, Mr Malema beamed with delight, sang and clapped along with the chanting crowds before being driven to his five-star hotel in a 30-vehicle convoy.
The controversial leader's arrival in Harare came only 12 hours after a civil rights group won an urgent application to restrain him from publicly uttering any words "which can reasonably be understood or construed as being capable of instigating violence, discord and/or hatred" between black and white people.
The ANC vowed to challenge the ruling and an earlier court judgment which declared the lyric as unconstitutional and unlawful.
South Africa's Freedom Front Plus party has described Malema as "an accessory to the wiping out of farmers in South Africa".
Some 861 white farmers have been killed since 2001, according to police, and 120 died in 2009 alone.
Mr Malema, who relishes publicity and said he would rather go to jail than stop singing the liberation song, has single-handedly exposed the true depths of racial divisions in South Africa in recent weeks at a time when the country is under pressure to re-energise its reputation as a modern "rainbow nation" ahead of its hosting of the World Cup in 10 weeks' time.
Despite their vast difference in ages, Mr Malema will have much to talk about with the 86-year-old Zimbabwean President.
The youth leader is in favour of nationalising the country's mining industry, and is among those pushing for a controversial new policy to hasten the redistribution of white-owned land.
The mission to Harare will do little to comfort South Africa's white population, particularly in rural areas, who already fear the ANC would like to replicate Mr Mugabe's land grab policy which has resulted in 4,000 white farmers being evicted from their land in the last decade.
After his trip to Zimbabwe, Mr Malema and his entourage will continue their research with visits to China, Chile, Venezuela, Brasil and Cuba.