Coming of age in an age of looting

2011-07-30 10:48

ANC Youth League leader Julius Malema has come face to face with the realities of power in all its dimensions – the power of money, the power of the media, the power of political opponents, as well as the power of the legal system.

The question is whether he will buckle or prevail under the ensuing pressure.

If Malema were to face the full might of the law, which he must if there is any wrongdoing on his part, then I would feel sad for him in the same way I feel for many a child transgressor.

For, in political terms, Malema is still a novice, despite the power that has been accorded to him. And it is an absolute tragedy that the adults in the ANC have abdicated their leadership while filling his head with delusions of grandeur.

How could we expect Malema to avoid the seduction of money and power when that same judgment has eluded his own leaders in the ruling party?

And has it really helped that he has been compared to a “Mandela in the making” or touted as a “future president” by his political elders?

What can that do to a young mind other than make him feel unassailable?

Malema may have been hoisted on his own petard alright, but if he is found guilty of any wrongdoing he would have been the victim of a corrupt culture created by his own elders in the ANC.

He came of age in an age of looting.

Just the other day, a friend was telling me about a nephew who asked why he should go to school if he could get rich by getting government tenders.

A country in which the young see no value in education, and where the educated are not valued, is a country already in the abyss. Or as my friend put it: “The cancer of corruption has spread too far to be arrested.”

The problem is that the people who would have been expected to clean up the mess – the politicians – are the ones who benefit from it. We thus find ourselves in the vicious cycle of a dominant party that seems unable to cleanse itself of corruption because that is what oils its cogs.

The problem, of course, is that not everybody’s cogs are oiled equally in the race for party leadership, which may mean we are already into the season of leaks, whether what they contain is true or not.

As I argued in my previous book, The Democratic Moment, law is politics and politics is law in South Africa.In some ways the chickens have come home to roost, not only for Malema but also for the ruling party.

If Malema goes down, he is unlikely to go down alone.He will most likely go down with the adults who allowed a young man with very little political experience to rule the roost, while they repeatedly and insatiably dipped into the public trough, with or without his connivance.

Ngugi wa Thiong’o could not have asked for a better script for his novel, Devil on the Cross, than present-day South Africa.

Dealing with Malema will prove far easier than rescuing this country from the morass in which its current leaders have taken it.

Whether he is guilty or not, I hope the Malema saga will demonstrate once again that this country is in desperate need of new institutional foundations that go beyond the fate of charismatic figures.

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