African National Congress elections head Fikile Mbalula says he defended EFF leader Julius Malema before he was expelled from the ANC in 2012 for bringing the party into disrepute.
Mbalula says he finds it ironic that the people who are now calling on Malema to return to the governing party, such as President Cyril Ramaphosa, presided over his expulsion.
“These people, we were with them in the ANC, and they know what we went through. I defended the youth league, I defended Julius in difficult times when I was in a position of being a minister with a president [Jacob Zuma], who believed that to defend Julius was a taboo and people who did that were mad,” Mbalula said in an interview with Power FM on Tuesday night.
“The fact of the matter is that today we are here. Some of those leaders who presided over his expulsion are at the helm of the ANC and they say come back. It is time to think about this,” he added.
Mbalula’s remarks come after Ramaphosa and his deputy, David Mabuza, at the weekend told reporters during the ANC’s voter registration drive that they would welcome Malema back into the party. Malema has rejected the offer and reiterated on social media on Monday his long-standing position that he would not return to the ANC.
Ramaphosa headed the ANC’s national disciplinary committee six years ago when Malema appealed his expulsion from the party for – among other charges – sowing divisions within the ANC and comparing former President Jacob Zuma’s leadership style to that of his then predecessor, Thabo Mbeki.
Mbalula said the ANC could be criticised for wanting Malema back into its fold, but this showed the party only “rejects the incorrigible”. He said it was also an indication that the ruling party had matured and was not “pompous and arrogant”.
“If the leadership of the ANC man up and say that we think we did something wrong, you belong here [and] let’s make peace. There is nothing wrong, but it will always be met with volatility on the other side. And others may misconstrue that the ANC is in tatters and shambles, it is far from that.
“A statement has to be made, even if that statement will not end up anywhere, and it will be rejected like it was rejected, there’s nothing wrong with that,” Mbalula said.