Yesterday, delegates at a boisterous African National Congress Youth League (ANCYL) meeting in Johannesburg were booing the leader of a supposed allied movement, the Young Communist League. But then they turned against a more familiar foe: Journalists.
At around 3 p.m., heavily built security guards ejected journalists from the media room at the ANCYL annual general council, after ANCYL leaders refused to meet the reporters as promised. The guards did not cause physical harm to the journalists, including this reporter, but it was clear there would be no questions asked, and no room for negotiation.
"Pack your computers, take your notebooks and pens, and march out,” said one bouncer, bedecked in an ANC Youth League T-shirt. “You are not welcome. We have no time to debate or argue with you on this matter.”
Asked why the league was chasing away journalists it had invited to cover the meeting, the five imposing security guards said they had been instructed by the Youth Secretary General, Vuyiswa Tulelo, to eject nosy media practitioners.
"We take orders and implement them,” said one of the guards. “You cannot question why we are telling you to leave the room. This is our conference."
Other guards literally flexed their muscles, leaving little doubt that journalists would be removed by force, if necessary.
Journalists from The Star, Daily Sun, Mail and Guardian, 702, Sowetan, The Times, and others were unceremoniously ejected from the building where they had set up their laptops in anticipation of a news conference with ANCYL leaders at the three-day conference, where about 3,000 delegates are gathered.
Two hours after the humiliation of the journalists, ANCYL spokesman, Floyd Shivambu, telephoned the reporters, inviting them to come back for a press briefing.
The intimidating treatment comes just five months after British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) journalist Jonah Fischer was ejected from an ANCYL press conference by Youth League President Julius Malema.
The incident, in which Malema called Mr. Fischer a "bloody agent" and told him not to "come here with that white tendency" was widely covered and inspired numerous online musical remixes from South Africans both for and against his ouster of Fisher.