Julius Malema, South Africa’s firebrand opposition politician, has warned Jacob Zuma’s African National Congress that he will remove it from power “through the barrel of a gun”.
Mr Malema, who was a staunch Zuma supporter and president of the ANC Youth League before being expelled for indiscipline, accused the ruling party of increasingly using violence to silence dissent and warned his followers would respond in kind if provoked.
Local elections are due in South Africa at the start of August and the ANC is expected to lose ground. Mr Zuma has ben mired in a series of scandals, recently being censored by the country’s highest court for ignoring an order to pay back public money spend on his private home.
Mr Malema claimed that the ANC lost South Africa’s business capital Johannesburg in the last elections, and the province of Gauteng that surrounds it, but alleged they “rigged” the result to win.
“We still accepted it. But they must know that we are not going to do that this year. We are not going to accept,” he told al-Jazeera.
“Part of the revolutionary duty is to fight and we are not ashamed if the need arise for us to take up arms and fight. We will fight.”
Mr Malema is now “Commander in Chief” of a militant socialist party, the Economic Freedom Fighters, and has declared a wish to eradicate “white minority capital” by nationalising South Africa’s banks and mines.
He has form on using bellicose language. In the run-up to Mr Zuma’s election as the country’s president he said he and his followers would “kill” for their leader.
He was also found guilty of hate speech by a court for continually singing the former struggle song “Shoot the Boer” during political rallies.
Mr Malema’s EFF was launched in 2013 and won six per cent of the vote in national elections the following year.
He was challenged by an interviewer for this weekend’s episode of Talk To al-Jazeera about whether such language was “befitting of a government in waiting”.
Mr Malema echoed the ANC’s controversial decision – pushed by Nelson Mandela – to take up arms against the apartheid government.
“We are a very peaceful organisation. We fight our battles through peaceful means, through the courts, through Parliament, through mass mobilisation,” he said. “We do that peacefully. But at times, government gets tempted to respond to such with violence.
“They beat us up in Parliament and they send soliders to places like Alexandra where people are protesting. We will run out of patience very soon and we will remove this government through the barrel of a gun.”