Editor's Note: EFF's Floyd Shivambu has made headlines for assaulting a photojournalist outside Parliament on Tuesday. In his apology, Shivambu claimed he did not realise the man he assaulted was a journalist.
Briefly.co.za editor, Laura Slyer, asks what it means if Shivambu's claim is true.
While the EFF's Julius Malema insults white MPs, (and gets away with it, because of course, it's not racism when a black man directs it towards whites), heavyweight Floyd Shivambu claims he "didn't realise" the man he assaulted was a journalist.
Racial differences aside, perhaps the journalist, Adrian de Kock, was obnoxious in asking incessant questions and taking photographs. I'm sure it must be quite annoying to have cameras shoved in your face while people are yelling questions at you.
Regardless, it doesn't excuse aggressive and violent behaviour.
Shivambu said in his apology: "The scuffle happened and was never an assault on the Journalist or media freedom. I regret the incident and believe it should have been handled differently. I take full responsibility and apologise for engaging in a scuffle with a person I discovered after the incident is a journalist. I will write and email an official apology on the scuffle because I believe it was not supposed to happen."
Well, first off, congratulations on accepting responsibility for the incident. You're right, it wasn't supposed to happen.
That was a scuffle?
But let's look at the rest of Shivambu's statement. He calls it a "scuffle". Now, to be fair, the start of their exchange is not on the video, and as there are always three sides to the story, (Shivambu's, De Kock's, and the truth), there's no telling what De Kock really did or said to set Shivambu off.
However, the way Shivambu and another man shoved De Kock against the wall, trying to smack his head against it while Shivambu gripped his throat, was not a "scuffle". It was assault. If he's going to accept full responsibility, call it what it is.
The other phrase: "...person I discovered after the incident is a journalist..." Really? All the other journalists, including De Kock, are wearing clearly visible press tags. I guess the giant camera De Kock was holding may have hidden his tag from Shivambu, but surely the camera itself would tip him off as to his job? Not to mention the annoyingly obnoxious questions he was apparently asking? Or even the fact that he was with a bunch of other journalists?
What if he hadn't been a journalist?
There's a deeper concern here though. Shivambu's apology is based on the fact that De Kock turned out to be a journalist.
If, as Shivambu claimed, he didn't realise that fact until after he assaulted De Kock, does that mean that it would be okay to have attacked a member of the public who wasn't a journalist? Because that's what his claim amounted to.
What if the cameras hadn't caught him? What if people hadn't been around to intervene?
If this is how Shivambu deals with impatience and irritability in public, with cameras and journalists all around him, how does he treat people in private?
Is this the leadership we need?
Pressure and anger can overtake the best of us at the worst of times. But part of being a public figure means leading by example.
If this is the kind of example EFF members are setting, is it the kind of leadership South Africa wants?
Even more, is it the leadership our beautiful country needs, when it's already torn between anger and hope?
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not reflect the official position of Briefly.co.za
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