Juju close to ICU

2010-04-24 11:47

When ANCYL President Julius Malema shocked the world by threatening to “kill for Zuma” in 2008, a section of the South ­African public was so terrified it ran to the Human Rights ­Commission for protection.

For a few who really knew the young rebel, he was merely ­introducing the world to his ­political mantra – a combination of arrogance, disrespect and greed.

Malema shot to political ­prominence in 1997 – when he was 16 – after leading a class boycott that cost his fellow Mohlakaneng Secondary School pupils in ­Seshego Township three months of schooling.

As Congress of South African Students president, he enhanced his career by leading a chaotic march in downtown ­Johannesburg in 2001 which was marred by looting.

His political gospel is usually coupled with insults, threats and bullying tactics meant to force ­political opponents into ­submission.

Between 2002 and 2008, ­especially in the run-up to the ANC’s 2007 Polokwane national conference, Malema treated ­competition as a betrayal.

Political opponents were ­dismissed as “political factory faults”, “witches” and “digata marokgwana” (a Sepedi word for insignificant people).

Businessman Emmanuel Sekgobela laid criminal charges against Malema in 2005 after he was ­allegedly assaulted for ­campaigning against him.

At about the same time, ­Malema was going into a ­lucrative ­business.

Through a company he secretly owned until last month, SGL ­Engineering Projects, he was ­allegedly ­awarded tenders in ­various ­municipalities totalling more than R173?million between 2007 and last year.

His profit on tenders worth ­between R490?000 and R64?million has enabled him to lead a luxury lifestyle ­including two multimillion-rand houses, a Range Rover and a wristwatch worth R250?000.

Some of his projects, mainly in poor rural areas, were marred by poor workmanship.

Municipal mayors who gave SGL tenders – such as his ally, former Letaba mayor and then ANCYL Limpopo chair Joshua Matlou – were celebrated as “progressive” and “effective”. Those who refused to comply were ­accused of poor service delivery and threatened with dismissal.

Brutal as it may seem, ­Malema’s political strategy worked. Former Limpopo ­premier Sello Moloto became an instant hero last year after he ­allegedly gave SGL R4?million in tenders. These tenders ­supposedly ended years of insults and threats of dismissal.

But Moloto was then toppled and replaced with Cassel Mathale as both ANC provincial chair and later premier.

Malema’s ego might have been inflated by the national profile that followed his support for ­Zuma and the positive response to his “prediction” that Mbeki would be recalled as ­president.

But the wheels came off at last year’s SACP December Polokwane national conference when delegates booed and jeered him, something he probably ­never imagined happening, ­particularly on his own turf.

Since that SACP incident, he has hardly said or done anything that has enhanced his dwindling political profile.

Instead, he has found himself fighting the media for exposing his alleged multimillion-rand business empire and related ­hypocrisy in the wake of claims that he was poor.

And if that was not enough, he embarrassed the ANC by ejecting a BBC journalist from a media briefing.

To top it all, he defied the ANC’s call for him not to comment on the death of rightwinger Eugene Terre’Blanche, and contradicted ANC and government policy on Zimbabwe.

Jacob Zuma, Mathews Phosa and Tokyo Sexwale ordered ­Malema to “think before talking”, to refrain from behaviour that is “alien” to the ANC’s culture and even dismissed his manners as un-African.

The significance of these ­rebukes is that they came from senior party leaders and ­Malema’s political allies who, ­until now, had enjoyed a cosy ­relationship with him.

With the ANC elephant starting to stomp slowly on Malema in the form of a pending ANC disciplinary action, he is likely to end up in the political intensive care unit or even the political mortuary.

His greed, middle finger and ­arrogance may not be enough to protect him this time around.

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