AFTER months of prevaricating, the ANC has finally charged its Youth League leader, Julius Malema, for his outrageous behaviour.
In a statement issued on Friday, the chair of the party’s disciplinary committee, Derek Hanekom, said Malema would be charged with “various violations of the ANC constitution, including bringing the ANC into disrepute through his utterances and statements on Botswana and sowing divisions in the ranks of the ANC”.
It is clear that the straw which broke the camel’s back was Malema’s stated intention to interfere in the internal politics of Botswana.
Malema said earlier this month that the neighbouring country was a threat to Africa because it was discussing a possible military base with “imperialists”.
“That puppet government [of President Ian Khama] is going to undermine the African agenda.”
He went on to call for Khama’s removal in a “democratic manner.”
“We know that Botswana is in discussions to open a military base for the imperialists and the present government of Botswana has the potential to co-operate in this manner,” he said.
That a leader of some stature in South Africa’s ruling party should announce plans to topple a neighbouring government is clearly totally unacceptable and the ANC is right to take Malema to task.
What is less clear is which of his other “utterances” will be dealt with.
Will the ANC have the courage to rein in Malema for his bombastic calls for nationalisation which have seriously damaged this country’s prospect of attracting foreign direct investment?
Will the party have the courage to call him to order over his outrageous racist statements which run counter to the party’s philosophy of non-racialism?
Having finally grasped the nettle, the ANC would be wise to go all the way, to mix a metaphor.
This is a fight to the death. If Malema survives unscathed because of weak prosecution or a reluctance to bring the full might of party discipline to bear, he will emerge stronger than ever.
He will then make a very damaging bid to unseat the party leadership at its Manguang conference next year, leading to more uncertainty over leadership and the direction this country is taking.
South Africa is a robust democracy, but the ANC must understand that the messages its senior leaders send out are taken to be the views of the governing party.
The consequences for South Africa of Malema’s attack on the fabric of society have already been severe. Let’s hope this action is not too little, too late.
PRESIDENT Jacob Zuma’s decision to abstain from public discussion on matters of great public importance is reinforcing the view that South Africa has no decisive leadership.
Over the past several weeks, devastating criticisms have been levelled at several of the government’s most senior leaders.
The public protector, Thuli Madonsela, has released her final report on how key leaders wrongly consented to the signing of two dodgy leases to the tune of R1.78-billion for police buildings in Pretoria and Durban.
Her report makes it plain that, between them, the Minister of Public Works, Gwen Mahlangu-Nkabinde, and police commissioner General Bheki Cele flouted regulations, ignored tender rules and seriously abused the trust placed in them to use public money wisely.
In Mahlangu-Nkabinde’s case, Madonsela specifically directed the president to take action. In Cele’s case, she called on the Minister of Police, Nathi Mthethwa, to act.
Zuma has not only failed to act, but has offered no explanation of how he intends to deal with this matter, showing contempt for Madonsela and for the public.
There are other signs that Zuma is failing to exercise presidential authority.
Three of his ministers have decided to challenge the ruling of the Competition Commission on Walmart in what can only be described as an act of immature political defiance against a government structure.
That a foreign investor can one week be allowed by a regulator appointed and regulated by the government to invest, only to find that the government challenging its own decision the next, is deeply perplexing.
That the Minister of Finance, Pravin Gordhan, is not part of this action suggests that it does not enjoy the support of Zuma’s entire cabinet.
It is worth asking if the absence of leadership has become so grave that Zuma no longer has authority over all his ministers.
Zuma’s strength is his ability to bring together those who disagree. His weakness is that he is unable to take a position which might alienate one or another member of the coalition that brought him to power in Polokwane.
Thus the ANC’s youth leader, Julius Malema, is able to say or do almost anything without consequences.
Left-leaning ministers who see foreign investors as evil imperialists are allowed to go to court to challenge decisions made by government bodies.
And appalling financial decisions such as those made by Cele and Mahlangu-Nkabinde go unpunished.
Zuma had better wake up to the fact that he is putting his weakness on display. He will not survive as leader unless he shows he has the mettle for the job.
@This is a draft leader for the Sunday Times
THE results of the local government election suggest that little has changed. The ANC lost a percentage point or two compared with it’s 2009 national election result and it held onto all the major metros it already controlled.
The DA gained, but more at the expense of other opposition parties, taking only marginal votes from the ANC.
But there are many more strands to this election than this superficial reading.
The ANC retained its influence by taking some dramatic steps to improve its image among voters. President Jacob Zuma went on record last weekend saying that he now “understood” why there had been such wide protests over service delivery.
This was a major acknowledgement following as it did on years of denial that was a serious delivery problem.
Zuma also hinted strongly that Sicelo Shiceka, the ineffectual minister charged with local government would go and the ANC dumped mayors who had failed, such as Johannesburg’s Amos Masondo, in favour of new faces.
All of these concessions resulted from the reality that the opposition DA has managed to re-imagine itself as a party which first and foremost cares about the delivery of services.
It was no longer a hollow claim made for propaganda purposes. The DA was able to point to a track record of success in Cape Town. It’s message lost some of its power as it dallied over the enclosure of toilets in Makaza, granting the ANC a desperately needed lifeline.
There can be no question that there will be an urgency in both ANC and DA-led councils to demonstrate probity and measurable delivery. The hot breathe of the opposition on your neck is, ultimately, the surest inspiration to properly represent the people.
The eradication of the smaller parties, including the IFP, Cope and the ACDP, by the DA, places South Africa on the path to a two-party electoral system. This will further focus electoral politics and bring more pressure on parties to meet their fulfil promises or face censure from voters.
The danger which now lurks is that parties might retreat into racial categories, with the DA representing minorities and the ANC representing the black majority. This would be tragic proof of the longevity of the apartheid paradigm.
It would ossify politics, limiting the opposition’s growth and it could push the ruling party increasingly into racial politics to bring out its base.
The rise of populist politicians who are not afraid to play the race card has already begun.
But the politics of delivery might yet prove more powerful than that of racial allegiance. Next time around, will failure be tolerated?
*This is a draft leader for the Sunday Times
IT was the week that the theatre of the absurd played itself out on television screens across the country.
In the dock sat the ANC Youth League’s Julius Malema. He was being questioned, goaded and baited by an assortment of angry men with a palpably poor grasp of South African history.
They wished to prove to the court that Malema had intended to incite violence by singing a traditional struggle song including the line “shoot the boer”.
They must have imagined they would have it easy. A few pokes of the stick and Malema would lose it, breathing fire at the judge, the judiciary, the courts and their clients.
They were wrong. There is the Malema of the mass gathering — the populist who knows how to stoke up the fires of anger — and then there is the cunning politician, who calculates, charms and expresses himself with candour and seriousness.
Much to the horror of the counsel for Afriforum — the organisation bringing a charge of hate speech against Malema — it was the charmer who sat in the dock.
Malema would not be goaded. He adopted a sympathetic, slightly patronising attitude as he explained to his interrogators the history and meaning of the ANC’s songs.
As a court case, it sucked. As a reality television show, it gripped the nation.
It might have been given the title: “Can You Keep It In: The show where people you loathe try to get you to lose your cool.”
Beyond the farce of the television experience were more layers of absurdity.
There was the absurdity of someone having to justify the singing of a song before a court of law in a country where freedom supposedly reigned.
There the was the absurdity of Malema and the ANC’s leadership — advocates of statutory controls over the media and the “protection” of government information — now offering po-faced arguments for the unfettered freedom of expression because, they argued, the nation was mature enough to handle it.
What is clear is that somewhere along the path to freedom, this nation has taken a wrong turn.
Julius Malema has made statements that are outrageous and hurtful. He showed poor political judgment by singing the “Shoot the boer” lyrics at a time when there were so many farm killings.
He has been widely criticised for doing so — even by the ANC.
But making the singing of a song a matter of law is a grave mistake. It opens the door for the courts to scrutinise and rule on the acceptability of public utterances.
Today it will be “Shoot the boer”, tomorrow it will be commenting that “the minister is a corrupt, idiotic buffoon”.
In an open society, matters of public taste belong in the court of public opinion.
The developing culture of regulation and litigation will suffocate free expression with ghastly costs in the long term.
We will become a society where what can or cannot be said is decided by who has the most lawyers and the most money. We don’t want to go there.
*this is a draft leader for the Sunday Times
Here’s the interview with Jacob Zuma that we carried in the Sunday Times today:
President Jacob Zuma’s presidency is facing major challenges, including the public sector strike and growing dissatisfaction among some of those who helped place him in power. Ray Hartley and S’thembiso Msomi spoke to him at his office in Tuynhuys
RAY HARTLEY: The climate around the strike has been one of heightened rhetoric and there have been some exceptionally strong statements. Are you aware of the statements that Zwelinzima Vavi made about the “predator government” – that we are being run by “corrupt and demagogic political hyenas”?
JACOB ZUMA: The right for workers to strike is very important and we respect that.
The problem is then in the conduct of the striking people. I think that is where the problem arises of strong statements.
In old democracies, there are frequent strikes and it is not a big deal because they are purely industrial strikes. I think it important to accept that ours tend to be political and that is why the statements become very aggressive, very political.
It is an issue that the unions themselves have got to look at because of the changed circumstances from the struggle to now. How do you conduct a strike from that point of view – lest you are looked at as part of the opposition one way or the other?
The other element which I think is very important is: how do the striking workers respect the rights of other sectors or other citizens of the country? Do I as a citizen have no right to go to the hospital and get treatment – because the workers are striking?
Do we, when we strike, have to allow a strike to become violent – not just violent but actually have the lives of people being taken away? Read More…
THE disintegration of the ruling ANC’s alliance with Cosatu and, to a lesser extent, the SACP, continues to gather momentum. Is it good or bad for the country?
The argument can be made that the end of the alliance would lead to a breakdown in social cohesion as the lid is opened on a
viscous vicious contest between left and right.
The past two weeks might well have given South Africans a bitter foretaste of a future of protracted labour action which becomes dangerously politicised. It is not hard to picture the full might of organised labour unleashed on the state without the restraint of the alliance.
But would it have to end badly?
There is the possibility that the release of these tensions, which have been kept behind closed doors with diminishing effectiveness, into the public domain might be just the tonic for our moribund political institutions.
An open contest at the polls between a left-leaning labour movement and a realigned center would offer South Africans the political choice that they are presently denied by the continuation of the Alliance.
The political competition that would result would force parties to sharpen their policies and throw out unelectable leaders. They would have to measure every word against its consequences at the ballot box.
This would have a sobering effect on the national political debate which has deteriorated into an amusing but ultimately pointless exercise in chauvinist name-calling.
The nation got a glimpse of how political competition would sober up politics during the last election when Cope launched an assault on the ANC’s core constituency for the first time. Politicians were measured and the name-calling was kept to a minimum lest it offend potential voters. What was missing was any serious difference in policy between the ANC and Cope, which mimicked the ruling party’s “broad church” approach.
It would be different if a labour party were to stand against the ANC. In such a scenario there would be a clear distinction between the social-democratic left and the centrist nationalists. Voters would be making a choice that could result in a real difference to the way in which the country would be governed.
The ANC would have to think twice about allowing leaders to use public platforms to advocate nationalisation and land seizure without compensation as Youth League President Julius Malema did this week.
Helen Zille’s DA, which is going from strength to strength in the Western Cape, has showed how voters will choose one party over another based on their governance records if there is the real prospect of a change in government.
The DA would in all likelihood become a third “liberal” party in the national contest for power were the alliance to give way to open competition for power.
All of this remains academic as the ANC, Cosatu and the SACP continue to proclaim their loyalty to the alliance while privately plotting to diminish each other’s grasp on state power.
What is changing is the public perception of the alliance. There are few who continue to believe the love story when all they see is infidelity.
TODAY the Blue Bulls and the Stormers played the final of rugby’s Super 14 competition at Orlando stadium in Soweto. The match took place in the shadow of the intense symbolism of the Bulls semifinal game at the same stadium a week earlier.
The nation celebrated as tens of thousands of Blue Bulls supporters trekked to Soweto to share pap, vleis and Black Label beer with the locals. Urban legend already has it that, between them, Blue Bulls supporters and those who travelled to Soccer City to watch the Nedbank Cup final drank Soweto’s shebeens dry.
After the semifinal victory, Bulls captain Victor Matfield described the experience: “Loftus is our home, but this was amazing. It was a historical day … it was wonderful. Where can you go and experience vuvuzelas mixed with boeremusiek ?”
It was a ground-breaking moment for the sport of rugby, but it was much more than that. It was evidence of how South Africa’s new centre, comprised of people from all walks of life, all incomes and all races, not only share but practise the founding values of our society, which include nonracialism, fairness, equality of opportunity, justice and reconciliation.
Momentous though these events have been, to suggest that these people found each other for the first time on the streets surrounding Orlando stadium would be mistaken. The rugby games were merely the grand symbolic expression of what has already happened in South Africa over the past 16 years, at back-yard braais, over the water cooler at work, at PTA meetings, at school sports events and at places of worship.
Even as Matfield was leading his team to victory in the semifinal, another event of momentous significance was taking place in Durban: Julius Malema, the self-styled voice of aggressive militancy, took the podium at a provincial youth function to sing “kiss the boer” to enthusiastic, if bemused, delegates.
Malema’s new song may have seemed to be the spontaneous action of an unpredictable personality, but it, too, was evidence of the power of the centre.
The youth leader’s goading of Afrikaners with the “shoot the boer” song had won him national notoriety and had cemented his position as the leader of the ANC’s populist, perhaps even Africanist, lobby, which seeks to abandon nonracialism in favour of a “payback time” approach to the economy by, for example, nationalising the mines.
Malema’s new awareness of the blood-dimmed tide his words were evoking was not brought about by idle introspection. It was the product of the heavy hand of a displeased ANC leadership. They had benignly tolerated his rhetoric as it rose through the octaves, but when it reached its shrillest pitch in the days leading up to the (unrelated, as it turns out) murder of Eugene Terre Blanche, President Jacob Zuma finally turned on Malema.
He did so for one simple reason: Malema was achieving what opposition parties had failed to do: he was disillusioning those who had for decades supported the party. The adjective that Zuma attached to Malema’s extremism was “alien”.
Malema may or may not have come round to the fact that singing “kiss” will take him a lot further in politics than singing “shoot”. But he had best heed the words of the saying, “you catch more flies with honey than with vinegar”.
This is an old rule of thumb in South African politics. For close on a hundred years, successive ANC leaders have embraced nonracialism, building a “multiclass” mass movement with few peers anywhere in the world. Those who built organisations on racially exclusive tickets have always been condemned to the margins.
Is this wishful thinking ? Fortunately, we don’t need to guess at the size of that democratic centre because we have elections that measure its support against that of the racially exclusive left and right.
An under-reported fact of the 1994 election is the devastating blow it dealt to the PAC — until then held to be a momentous force of the Africanist Left — which garnered a mere 243478 votes, about 90000 fewer than the DA. The majority did not buy into its exclusionist approach. Nor did many buy into the agenda of the right wing. The Freedom Front of Constand Viljoen achieved only 424555 votes.
Sixteen years of democracy have further worn down support on the radical fringes. In the 2009 election, the PAC achieved a paltry 113512 votes, while the Freedom Front Plus was down to a mere 139465 votes.
Compare this with the well over 15 million votes given to the ANC, DA, IFP, UDM and other parties of the democratic centre, and you get the picture.
If anything, parties of the nonracial democratic centre are growing their market share, and there is, frankly, no other political game worth playing in local politics.
Why then, you might ask, does the attention given to the views of extremists of one or another hue, such as Terre Blanche or Malema, far exceed that warranted by the size of their support base?
The answer lies in a major misperception about the people who occupy the democratic centre as being powerless victims of political and economic overlords. Nothing could be further from the truth.
Members of this democratic centre have always successfully challenged those who seek to undermine the core values of the constitution. When these values are threatened, they react with outrage and make their feelings known.
Evidence of this is abundant. People such as those who read this newspaper are vocal when they see these values being challenged. They write letters, they phone in to radio talk shows, they go online, they vent their displeasure on Facebook and they pass around e-mails.
In so doing, they are not giving unwarranted attention to those who should be ignored. They are owning democracy and taking a stand against its erosion, using the channels open to them in a democratic society.
Parties such as the ANC, which tried to pretend that Malema’s utterances could simply be ignored, eventually found themselves with no choice but to act to restore credibility with the people of this democratic centre.
There have been many assaults on our foundation values over the past 16 years, and, some would argue, there are new threats on the horizon.
The objectives being pursued by those who want to depart from our core values read like school debating-society fare: the death penalty, abortion and property rights. Zuma has associated himself with some alarming socially conservative allies who wish to punch holes in constitutional liberties on these and other fronts.
These threats are real and may metastasize into deeds if they are left unchallenged.
The people who shared the joy of a rugby victory in Soweto and those who will sit together on the benches of our incredible World Cup stadiums are, ultimately, the true defenders of this democracy.
Many countries deserving of a bright future have faltered as their people have watched the trampling of the values of democracy in silence.
But this nation is shouting it out, and the message is clear: we are one nation united in defence of our values.
LOOKING back on Saturday, it was quite a day. Tens of thousands of supporters of the Blue Bulls, traffic notwithstanding, made the the journey to Orlando Stadium where they were welcomed with open arms by the community of Soweto. There was the rugby, which was a triumphant display of Bulls power. But there was so much more than that. The fans dined with the locals, danced and sang into the night.
Make no mistake, this was an ingenious marketing ploy by whoever manages the Bulls. The Dallas Cowboys football franchise is known as “America’s team” in the US and they are several fold the richer for it when it comes to merchandise sales, viewership and the like. On Saturday, the Bulls staked a claim to becoming “South Africa’s team”, which is exactly where you want to be if you want future growth as a business.
But the marketers succeeded because they looked past the stereotypes at the true heart of South Africa, a heart which prizes reconciliation, peace and good fun far more than the divisive racism of the minorities on either side of the political spectrum.
As the Bulls pulled off their coup, Julius Malema rose to astonish the nation by singing “Kiss the Boer”, a very convincing about turn from the original “Shoot the Boer” song which caused so much unhappiness.
Malema’s move showed just how powerful the South African center can be when it flexes its muscle. Jacob Zuma and the ANC read the riot act to Malema precisely because they recognised how far he had moved from the ANC’s voters. He was sowing disillusion with the ANC at a time when Zuma wanted to cash in on the goodwill generated by the World Cup.
The center, I would venture to say, is holding.