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Julius Malema – our next president

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  If current political scuttlebutt is to be believed, it seems President Jacob Zuma’s ventriloquists dummy, Julius Malema, may well have presidential aspirations.

As things stand, the likelihood of the present incumbent seeking – and getting – a second term seems pretty certain, but much water must still flow under the country’s political bridge before the next “Polokwane” in 2012, and so much could happen in that turbulent maelstrom that is South African politics. The apparently rock-solid edifice upon which Jacob Zuma ascended to the highest office in the land – and the party – is beginning to show some cracks, despite the voluble protestations of the tri-partite alliance to the contrary.Ministers are openly criticised by alliance partners – and rightfully so – for their nauseatingly opulent choices in official motor vehicle; Comrade Blade being a prime, and one of the most recent, examples. A tense face-off in the Eastern Cape recently saw a pitched battle between ANC and SACP candidates for the provincial leadership, and – ominously – the SACP candidate won, albeit only by the width of the cell wall of a staphylococcus bacterium.

Belligerent industrial action has accelerated to unprecedented levels since April, and besides the uptick in frequency, the level of violence accompanying the strike action has increased concomitantly. Even the security services have participated, most recently 1300 SANDF members in a violent and illegal wild-cat strike at the Union Buildings.

In a typically knee-jerk and ill thought out retaliation, Minister Lindiwe Sisulu fired the lot of them on the spot, and if the union’s utterances are anything to go by, the problem is a long way from over. Cleary, the alliance partners are far from being as in lock-step as they would have the country believe. The ongoing and increasingly violent protest action in townships, demanding what was promised to the gullible voting fodder so callously by President Jacob Zuma and his allies during the election campaign – they knew full well they could never deliver – is placing further strain on the already frag- ile relationships among alliance partners.

And late last week, violent student protests at Wits University sounded an ominous alarm bell, warning of unrelenting demands for something that government is incapable of providing.  As hard as it may be to believe this soon after the election – we’ve only just seen the first 100 days come and go – President Zuma faces the bleak possibility, nay probability, that he may well fall from favour before the next big party indaba in 2012.  

After all, it is the outcome of this gathering of the party faithful, with all the attendant political skullduggery and pursuit of personal ambition before and during the congress, that largely shapes what the government post-2014 will look like, just as it did in 2007 at Polokwane. So where does Julius Malema fit into all of this? How is it possible that he can even contemplate aspiring to the highest office in the land, considering his remarkable ability to fit both of his feet into his mouth simultaneously?

The cold hard truth of the matter is that we ridicule, discount or ignore Mr Malema at our peril, because we seem to forget that he speaks to a substantial constituency that listens avidly to virtually every word that he says.  Out of our population of 47 odd million citizens, fully 50% fall into that category loosely referred to as “the youth” and to say that the majority are disaffected, disillusioned and angry would amount to a monumental understatement.

Adding fuel to these smouldering embers is a sure-fire way to garner a groundswell of support, no matter how illogical or irrational Mr Malema’s rhetoric might be. As much as we think he’s loony, his utterances touch a chord with the disaffected youth, and the more inflammatory he is the greater will be the support afforded by his constituency. And 2012 looms.

The argument that he is too young, that he must wait his turn in the highest tradition of the party, may well carry weight with the current leadership generation, the grey beards, but the big question must be: Are the likes of Julius Malema prepared to wait their turn, probably for another 15 to 20 years?  

His age contemporary, Fikile Mba-lula, is already a deputy cabinet minister, so why pray could Julius not aspire to becoming president?  The self-deception of his suitability for high office is fostered by his inclination to comment on virtually every aspect of public life.  
Nobody and nothing it seems, is spared his frequently illogical and generally odious attention, and the media’s willingness to report his utterances – easily misinterpreted as adulation – serves only to reinforce the illusion.

A further source of compelling inspiration was the phenomenal success achieved last year by Barack Obama – at the age of 43 – in wresting the Democratic nomination from Hilary Clinton, and the presidency from the Republicans. Mr Malema attended the inauguration, and according to City Press editor-in-chief Ferial Haffajee on a local talk radio show last Thursday, the play of emotion on his face during Barack Obama’s inaugural address, trumpeted the conviction

“If he can, so can I.” In an approximation of Loyd Bentson’s “Senator, you’re no Jack Kennedy” to Dan Quayle, when he likened himself to President John F Kennedy during a vice-presidential debate in the 1988 US presidential election campaign; “Mr Malema, you’re no Barack Obama”.

But selective human memory being what it is, we seem to forget just how significant a role Mr Malema played in getting Jacob Zuma elected president of both the ANC and the country.  What if he were to focus that malevolent and ruthless energy on satisfying his own presidential ambitions? Since neither intellectual capacity nor education appear to be determining criteria in the achievement of high office in the ANC, the unthinkable – it seems – may well be possible.

This piece was written on Wednesday September 15, prior to the publication of the Argus article on Thursday September 16, in a similar vein. – Editor

Written by Norman McFarlane You are reading Julius Malema – our next president articles

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