Julius Malema, the leader of the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF), has filed proceedings with the Equality Court demanding that Kenny Kunene, the deputy president of the Patriotic Alliance (PA), retract and apologise for calling him a cockroach on television in November.
In response to Malema’s “pantiti” statements, Kunene promised to expose the EFF leader for who he is, calling him a “cockroach” and “criminal,” among other things, in an interview on eNCA.
He said: “I think it’s pure bitterness and jealousy. Julius has gone on to call us these names for a very long time. We have really tried to be mature and not respond to him. I’m going to deal with this little frog. Julius is just an irritating cockroach that I must now deal with publicly. I will call the press and begin to show you that Julius, whatever he criticises, he is.
“Julius is a criminal and I’m going to show South Africans the crimes he has been involved in. I’m going to tell South Africans why I left the EFF because of this cockroach. So I’m going to deal with this cockroach because we have given him time and respect.
“He’s got his issues, he hates himself and now he hates everybody else. He also went for the TG of the ANC, he gets personal in politics. We have stood back, but now it’s over. When I meet him, he must tell me that I’m a pantiti in my face.”
In court papers Malema argues that Kunene’s use of the phrases “little frog” and “cockroach” to describe him, as well as his reluctance to apologise, indicate that Kunene believes the EFF leader deserves “subhuman treatment.”
“His attack on me and the use of that term, especially, was deliberate and intentional,” argues Malema.
The term was used to justify inhumane treated meted out on the Tutsis by the Hutus during the Rwandan genocide and became popularised as more politicians used it.
According to Malema, the word was intended to “other” Tutsis as subhuman. As a result, the remark should be considered hate speech under the Promotion of Equality and the Prevention of Unfair Discrimination Act.
“First he used the term to undermine my human dignity by referring to me as sub-human. This adversely affected my equal enjoymentof his rights and freedoms.
“It is hardly a stretch of the imagination that the first respondent used the term as a dog whistle, such that I should be targeted for, inter alia, my tribal ethnicity and/or social origin and/or conscience and/or belief. This he did on the sole basis of me being a political opponent and evidently based on my ethnicity.”
Malema considers it equally vital that the respondents are his political opponents as well as members of a different ethnic group. Former Speaker of Parliament Baleka Mbete was used by Malema to argue that Kunene should have apologised for using the phrase if he meant no harm.
During a provincial elective conference in North West 2015, Mbete referred to Malema as a cockroach. She then apologized for the incident. “South Africa’s polity is not immune to such instances, but unlike with Mr Kunene, most of those who uttered the offensive term apologised for it. Mr Kunene has stubbornly refused to do so. This is why I now turn to the courts,” argues the EFF leader.