MALEMA - Man of the People?

28 September 2012

Julius Malema, or Juju, as he is fondly known, is an interesting character indeed. The former ANC Youth League (ANCYL) leader is still blazing a trail months after his removal from the leadership of the youth organisation.

On Wednesday this week, he appeared in a Polokwane court on charges of money laundering.
Great politician that he is, Juju turned the occasion on its head and used it to advance his campaign to oust ANC and South African President, Jacob Zuma, at the upcoming ANC national conference in Mangaung in December this year.
The harsh treatment meted out against Juju could actually boomerang against those who are engineering his downfall. It is like the snow calling the fridge white (if you know what I mean!).
The argument goes like this: if I am part of a group of comrades that are enjoying the fruits of their newfound political connections, why should I be targeted for a “hair-drier” treatment?
In other words, even if the courts were to find that Juju was involved in some shady deals on account of his political connections, who has the moral right to cast the first stone?
Surely, Juju knows other high-ranking comrades who also have their hands in the cookie jar! And what will stop him from spilling the beans?
By the way, the public show of support for Juju, despite the corruption charges, reminded me of how the apartheid regime tried its best to discredit Reverend Allan Boesak by exposing his extra-marital affair with a white woman. You know what?
When Boesak visited Wits University after this exposé, the students gave him a hero’s welcome by carrying him shoulder high!
The point is, when people invest their trust and confidence in someone, it is difficult to cause them to disinvest such trust through smear campaigns.
The suffering masses of South Africa, as elsewhere in the world, always want someone who will champion their cause, even if it is just at the level of rhetoric.
For the majority of the masses, the material conditions have not changed substantially, and thus, even if there is a change of guard at state house, the people need a prophet who talks convincingly against the system, someone who fights the power.
One does not need a PhD in economics or politics to know that the majority of the black masses live in similar conditions as (in some instances, even worse) during apartheid.
When the honeymoon fades and the people awaken from their ideological slumber, they discover that political independence per se does not put real bread on the table.
The people realise that independence places only symbolic bread on the table, and that does not help much. For them, the struggle continues.
Enter Juju. Malema knows the language that the people want to hear.
His personal ethical standards may not be the best in the world, but his tongue caresses the hearts of the people, and thereby lifts them up into a world where their imaginations run wild in anticipation of a better day.
During apartheid, the liberation movement similarly fired their imaginations and gave them hope for a better day.
When he was ANCYL leader, Juju was obviously constrained by the rules that required him to behave as a party apparatchik.
Party discipline is good and bad in equal measure, but now that he has been expelled, there is no need to observe protocol. What was intended to silence him has now actually enhanced his popularity!
From some of his public utterances, it appears that Juju is campaigning for ANC deputy president, Kgalema Motlanthe, to take over from Zuma. Can Juju pull it off again by undoing Zuma in order to catapult Motlanthe into Tuynhuys?
Malema is not holding back any punches. He believes strongly that Zuma is guilty of corruption, and stated that as soon as Zuma loses his presidency, he (Zuma) should be charged with corruption immediately.
Does Juju know some juicy bits of information in Zuma’s closet, and is he going to tell it like it is? How many other ANC comrades will be hit by this political tsunami that is busy forming?
Malema is hoping that his vitriolic attacks on Zuma, with a hint that he knows damaging information about the president, can swing the situation in his favour by scaring Zuma into submission.
The dilemma for Zuma is: if Juju is left alone, he will continue with his populist rhetoric, yet when he is perceived to be persecuted as with this court case, he becomes even more popular and uses his persecution to greater effect.
In support hereof, a friend of mine made the interesting observation that the persecution of Zuma during Thabo Mbeki’s presidency actually made Zuma very popular and boomeranged against Mbeki.
So my friend believes that history will repeat itself and Juju’s persecution will boomerang against Zuma.
Needless to say, there is an opposing school of thought which postulates that Juju is now on a “political green mile”, meaning that Juju is on his way down the slope and he will soon be politically liquidated.
The reasoning is that by way of a long-term prison sentence, for instance, Juju could be silenced.
This theory is based on the fact that Juju has irked, not only Zuma, but more fundamentally, he has scared the capitalist elite with his rhetoric about nationalising mines and other strategic industries.
For committing such a mortal sin against capitalism, he has to be taught a lesson!
Just like with the Swapo Party in Namibia, the next two months are going to be crucial for our southern neighbour; by the end of the year, it is expected that there will be a change of guard in the ruling parties.
In Namibia, this transition is being managed quite well, but in South Africa, Malema has made the power contest in the ANC very turbulent.
Soon, we shall find out if Malema is truly a man of the people. Judging by the images on TV, Juju appears not to have lost any of his mojo. Time will tell.


Ondjirijo. Hijo.


The Windhoek Observer is an English-language weekly newspaper, published in Namibia by Paragon Investment Holding. It is the country's oldest and largest circulating weekly.

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