A weekend warning by Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) president and commander in chief Julius Malema that “soldiers are going to turn their guns” on President Jacob Zuma is against the Constitution which specifies the SA National Defence Force (SANDF) is a non-partisan institution.
Speaking at the launch of his party’s local election manifesto in Johannesburg, Malema is reported as having said: “I am whispering to you Zuma, wherever you are, those soldiers are going to turn their guns against you. Leave office before the soldiers turn against you. The army is EFF”.
He apparently went on to say that Zuma would not be president by 2019 – “the army is going to take up arms against the government. This army will turn”.
A defenceWeb request for comment from the SANDF drew a diplomatic response from Brigadier General Xolani Mabanga, Director: Corporate Communications.
“The SANDF would like to urge individuals or organisations not to draw it into petty party politics or use their freedom of expression to spread propaganda for war or incite members of the SANDF to engage in any acts that can be tantamount to mutiny or that can contribute to depose or change the government.
“The SANDF confirms it is established in terms of the Constitution and is structured and managed in accordance with the Constitution, the Defence Act and other legislation. The SANDF remains a non-partisan institution of government and its employment is as prescribed by government.
“The SANDF also confirms it has no relationship, affiliation or links with the EFF or any political organisation.”
Respected columnist Max du Preez warned the EFF to be “careful and not mess with two key pillars of South Africa’s stability – the legitimacy of election results and the political neutrality of the defence force”.
He wrote for News24 that “many analysts agreed that the final moment South Africans could be sure they were irrevocably on the path to democracy was when the army general who was the last head of the apartheid-era defence force and the first of the SANDF in the democratic era, George Meiring, saluted Nelson Mandela at his inauguration in 1994 and military helicopters flew overhead flying the new flag”.
He went on to say Malema’s utterances at the EFF manifesto launch at the weekend threatened to disturb the ethos created by a national defence force made up of former members of Umkhonto we Sizwe, Apla, the Bantustan armies and the remainder of the old SA Defence Force.