By The Times Editorial, 16 January 2014

After the mayhem in Nkandla at the weekend, when ANC supporters did their best to disrupt a visit by Economic Freedom Fighters leader Julius Malema, President Jacob Zuma announced that the ruling party would not tolerate political violence.

Zuma’s fine-sounding declaration – made as about 30 ANC supporters were to appear in court on public violence charges arising from Saturday’s melee – rang a little hollow.

Malema had led a delegation of EFF members to Zuma’s home village to hand over a house they had built for a local woman close to Zuma’s palatial homestead. It was a cheap – but clever – stunt aimed at embarrassing Zuma, whose private home has been heavily subsidised by taxpayers.

ANC-supporting residents in the neighbourhood quickly advanced on Malema’s entourage, throwing rocks and insults and forcing the police to intervene.

The EFF leader is a political upstart, who can be rude, abrasive and insulting. And his own supporters have not won any kudos for political tolerance – witness the shocking violence perpetrated by ANC Youth League protesters at Luthuli House in August 2011 when Malema was still in charge of the league.

But just because the ANC does not like Malema does not mean that the EFF has any less right to speak or campaign in any part of the country than the ruling party does.

Saturday’s sorry events at Nkandla are not the first. DA leader Helen Zille was sent packing in similar vein when she attempted to ”inspect” Zuma’s home in May 2012.

And supporters of the ANC’s alliance partner Cosatu were guilty of blatant thuggery when they attacked DA members attempting to march on the labour giant’s headquarters to highlight the unemployment crisis.

In about five months, South Africans will go to the polls in the most closely contested elections since 1994.

It is vital that all parties – starting with the ANC – do more than pay lip service to political tolerance.