Friday, August 16, 2013

Let the voters decide Julius Malema's future

Chester Missing, who needs no introduction from me, tweeted at the time: "Give your boyfriend millions and you get a slap and then redeployed. Comment on Botswana and you get expelled."
The famous puppet was referring to two sharply contrasting disciplinary actions taken by the ANC. The party punished Dina Pule for an extravagant life style with her lover at the taxpayers' expense by demoting her to a mere member of parliament.
But it eventually expelled Julius Malema from the party altogether for proposing the overthrow of the legitimate government of Botswana (an assignment presumably to be undertaken at some time convenient to them by Mr Malema and the band of brothers who have since those apprentice days matured into the Economic Freedom Fighters).
However, another issue more weighty than either of these transgressions seems to concern what are patronisingly referred to as ‘ordinary South Africans'. They have been astonished to see the South African Revenue Service publicly testifying against Mr Malema for what appears to be tax evasion.
If readers' letters to the newspapers and comments on the internet are anything to go by, many people are uncomprehending, if not outraged, that 'Juju' has not already been tried and imprisoned for this, among a menu of other misdeeds, real or imagined.
The law's delay aside, a cogent explanation is that it would make a martyr of him. All populist leaders and dictators need to appear as not only speaking for 'the people', but also as suffering for them. They feed and grow on anything that can be presented as persecution, a word Mr Malema uses calculatedly when addressing his followers.
Indeed, students of Mr Malema's public speeches will have noted signs that he would not mind, might even welcome, being locked up for a little while in the undemanding conditions the political elite enjoy in SA. He knows a spell in prison would confirm his status, fuelling the fires of publicity he relies on and enshrining his cause as nothing else could. In case he should be so lucky, he is now shrewdly positioned as Commander-in-Chief, an icon above the fray, ready and able to be sacrificed - and immortalised - while his Economic Freedom Fighters bravely soldier on.
In short, it would be the worst thing the ANC could let happen.
But perhaps the leaders of the party have finally accepted that, just as they could not patronise, mollify or discipline Julius Malema when he was one of them, they cannot intimidate him now he is an outcast revolutionary with nothing to lose.
Showing neither malice nor deference, the ANC should allow Mr Malema to follow his star and prove himself in the 2016 and all future elections on the basis of his revolutionary programme.
Julius Malema and what he stands for can only be beaten at the ballot box, or not at all. Fear of the ANC no longer works; times have changed.
It is over to the South African voter now.
This is a slightly edited version of an article appearing on Politicsweb on August 12 2013.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

A brief look at some of the political possibilities in South Africa

[This first appeared as a letter in Business Day on August 1 2013. My internet 'exile in space' is BDlive]

Dear Sir

May I return briefly from exile in the trackless space of the internet to drop off some unorthodox political views:

* Times are hard - but, then, when were they soft?
* The ANC may not be in decline - only sorting out where it stands at last.
* President Zuma isn't as bad as they say. Former president Mbeki was at least as bad, but no one was allowed to say.
* The party is not the collection of crooks and nitwits many complain about. It will mount a powerful election campaign for next year.
* The tripartite alliance is crumbling - but it has been for years. And in-fighting among trades unions helps strengthen government - though it creates major problems for law and order.
* We all need law and order - even 'the masses'. Only a tiny minority who say they speak for 'the masses' need a revolution.
* Instead of 'millions' flooding to vote EFF, EFF may cause 'millions' to flood back to the ANC.
* That could be bad for the opposition DA.
* It could be bad for all opposition - but only temporarily. Opposition is here to stay. It’s the quality of opposition that counts now.
* These points are not prophecies. Every one may be proved wrong by events. Just like all those that contradict them.

 Paul Whelan