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JULIUS Malema on Thursday accused ANC Secretary General Gwede Mantashe of “using headlines” to attack the ANC Youth League’s views on Botswana.

Speaking at a public lecture at the University of Johannesburg's Soweto campus, the ANC Youth League president said they had not contradicted the ruling party's policy positions as cited by Mantashe and ANC spokesman Jackson Mthembu earlier this week.

The ANC will on Monday hold a bilateral meeting with the league and the Botswana issue will take centre stage.

On Sunday the ANCYL executive, led by Malema, said it would set up a "command team" to promote unity among opposition parties in Botswana with the aim of toppling President Ian Khama's elected government.

The statement drew strong condemnation from the ANC, with Mantashe on Wednesday accusing the league of publicly showing a "desire to undermine the ANC leadership".

But on Thursday, Malema instead fired a broadside at the ANC, accusing Mantashe and Mthembu of attempting to stifle debate on political positions taken by the league.

"At our congress the BNF [Botswana National Front] spoke in front of everybody, not in the toilets. Why do we want to become a generation of cowards? They openly and proudly associated themselves with us [during apartheid]. Why can't we do the same? BNF must be supported by strategy and tactics. Not to overthrow. What's regime-changing about that?" Malema asked.

"When the DA calls for regime change in Zimbabwe, no-one says anything. Do you want to suppress debate? It can never be. Is there a problem of policy or individuals? You want to engage us through headlines. This was a political view. There's no contradiction."

He added: "We will continue to associate with BNF. While the ANC was trying to overthrow apartheid, other parties associated with us openly; they didn't just write press statements. They gave us arms, they gave us food. They openly and proudly associated themselves with the ANC. Why can't we do that ourselves today?”

Sports Minister Fikile Mbalula, who arrived towards the end of Malema's address, hopes to eclipse Mantashe from his position at the ANC's national conference in 16 months' time.

While Botswana’s opposition parties have welcomed Malema’s help, the government there says it is not concerned.

Botswana government spokesperson Jeff Ramsay said: "It is unlikely that the government will respond to such utterances as they were made by someone who does not hold any official position within the South African government and as such does not necessarily represent the position of the South African government.


 "Whatever Malema said will not in any way strain relations between the government of Botswana and the South African government."

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