Juju jinxes Zuma over mines unrest

2012-09-14 14:21

ANC rebel Julius Malema has charged back from the political wilderness, seizing on a mines labour conflict to bait and harry President Jacob Zuma before an end-year leadership conference that will test stability in Africa’s biggest economy.

While Zuma has dithered over the industrial unrest that led to the August 16 police killing of 34 striking miners, Malema is feeding his comeback with the discontent among South Africa’s poor and unemployed that poses the biggest threat to the ANC’s governing alliance since apartheid ended in 1994.

The former ANC Youth League leader has heard the grievances of angry strikers carrying spears, machetes and clubs.

“Where are our leaders? Our leaders have sold out South Africa. Our leaders are sleeping with capitalists. Our leaders are enjoying dinners with capital. They have forgotten about us,” the 31-year-old told a raucous crowd of protesting miners this week.

This contrasted with Zuma’s own low-key appearance at the site of the Marikana mine shootings, surrounded by suited aides and bodyguards who shielded him with a parasol from the sun.

Styling himself an “economic freedom fighter”, Malema has revived a call for nationalisation of mines, an option so far shunned by the government but whose spectre unnerves investors in a sector producing 6% of national economic output.

As Malema urges strikers to make the mines “ungovernable”, global credit ratings agencies have been warning that the Zuma government is also on the wrong track in its efforts to end chronic unemployment, corruption and a broken education system.

Prospects for an end to the five-week mines labour strife were dashed today when Marikana strikers rejected a pay offer.

The road to Mangaung

Malema’s anti-Zuma campaign has found resonance ahead of a December conference in Mangaung to elect the ANC leadership.

If Zuma wins re-election, he is almost assured of another term as president until 2019 because the ANC enjoys virtual one-party rule.

Malema’s expulsion from the ANC earlier this year had appeared to cement Zuma’s re-election, but the escalating mines conflict and the government’s sluggish response to it has given fresh ammunition and hope to opponents of the president.

A senior ANC official, who asked not to be named, said Zuma’s rivals in the leadership race were not embracing Malema, but his re-emergence was eroding confidence in Zuma’s leadership.

After weeks of silence, the president told parliament yesterday the government would act against individuals, like Malema and militant union activists, who are stirring up the striking miners.

Today, senior ministers announced a crackdown against “illegal gatherings” and the carrying of weapons.

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