A few weeks back, Wonkie published a Julius Malema meets the Guru cartoon. In case readers were wondering what happened to Moolius Jalema in that parallel universe, today’s post has the answer. Wonkie formally salutes the born leader, surviving against all odds.
Whether Malema is a bumbling monster created by the media, or a gentle giant who is simply misunderstood, one thing is for sure – he is hard to ignore. The writer below ponders Malema and his future and Wonkie is keen to read your opinion in the comments section below.
What has given rise to the phenomenon that is Juju – aka Julius Malema? Why has the ANC taken disciplinary action against him and his lieutenants and why has the media given so much publicity to his sayings and actions? So much so that he is one of the best known political figures in the country.
Is it that the organisation he leads, the ANC Youth League (ANCYL), has a genuine track record of thoughtful policy formulation and active grassroots campaigning in support of democracy, accountability and economic equality and is thus a threat to the vested interests of a Zuma faction that is holding up progress? And following from this, with regard to the media, in claiming to stand against corruption and elitism, is Juju a hero worthy of attention?
In a more general sense, is the ANC action a scrambling to block a radical, socialist Juju? The media coverage being the reactionary attack of a co-conspirator to protect the status quo – which suits big business (both black and white) and the mandarins of the state apparatus. Or is it the result of a senior grouping in the ANC finally becoming intolerant of Juju’s inflammatory rantings and a concomitant media consensus that he and the ANCYL constitute a crude, populist force that is a danger to the very values and interests they purport to represent? Of course, on the media side, it may be none of these things, but simply akin to giving a half-baked politician (a la Sarah Palin) a chance to look ridiculous (see how entertaining the political leadership is!) and thus a tool to boost sales. In the South African context there is also the possibility that it is generalised ANC-bashing – the unfair sub-text being: see how ignorant/opportunistic our new black leaders are.
The potential answers are many. But a brief look at our recent history shows that over the past two decades the ANCYL has not conducted a single effective grassroots campaign, has not led the Youth Development Fund in a positive manner and has a leadership tainted by a culture of patronage and opportunism. This began flourishing in the mid 1990s under the tutelage of Brett Kebble – being part of a more general moral disintegration within the ANC. Combine these organisational flaws with a malfunctioning education system, the alienation caused by a media-fed culture of mindless consumption together with the celebrity cult dominating politics and social intercourse, and you have an ANCYL that is all rhetoric and whose leaders are grossly compromised even as they claim to represent a mass base of unemployed, disaffected youth (people below the age of thirty) who are angry and frustrated but politically unsophisticated and susceptible to half-baked sound-bites. And so it is that Juju, despite his questionable lifestyle and financial dealings, has come to represent both the rural and urban under-class. And flowing from this, his statements on issues (ranging from rape to nationalisation), though generally crude calls delivered with bombast, meet with popular support and, as a result, are given widespread media coverage.
What then are the likely results of the Julius Malema disciplinary hearings? Will they go all the way and rule in favour of expulsion which may spark a bitter, protracted internal struggle which will further polarise the Alliance? Or will he receive a reprimand that saves face for all concerned? Either way, will Juju and his cohorts face off an ANC that closes ranks with COSATU and the SACP to fight off his attempts to replace current office bearers with his slate or will there be more fissures in the Alliance? More importantly, will the presidential and other internal elections next year be dominated by a Malema faction dirty tricks campaign (a la the 2007 Kill for Zuma campaign), or will the process run smoothly with him having been isolated and discredited?
One the one hand, the fizzling out of mass protest at the start of the disciplinary hearings is a sign that Malema may have over-reached himself, and that Zuma is ready to reassert his authority. However, the array of internal figures ready to provide evidence in his favour shows that there are many inside the party who are prepared to align themselves with an anti-Zuma list. The tragedy of this internal power play is that it has very little to do with ‘development’ and eradicating the economic inequalities that are worsening – but everything to do with capturing the Commanding Heights of Power so as gratify personal ambitions and position cliques closer to resources.
I say this because the anti-Zuma grouping has no coherent policy document with which to reconfigure the current ones and no record in action of advancing change. What has Sexwale’s housing department done over the past two years? Has Motlanthe publicly and vigorously pushed for better performance levels from the state sector or demanded of Business to increase levels of internal investment and moderate its appetite for obscene executive payouts? Have any of them challenged Zuma on the issue of corruption involving senior state functionaries like Cele? Have they upbraided the department of transport for dragging its heels with regard to providing affordable and well run public transport for a working class that is bleeding because of high fuel costs and inadequate services?
These and many other instances of omission indicate that the current action being taken against the Malema faction is an internal squabble of no great significance – those who are casting stones, though perhaps more sophisticated than Malema and less given to demagoguery, are themselves as guilty of grandstanding, procrastination and indifference when it comes to the interests of the millions who are sidelined by state lethargy and capitalistic short-termism. As such, the results of the disciplinary action are unlikely – either way – to have a material impact on our society.
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