Love or hate him, he’s a powerful force

2011-06-18 15:02

Not a single person in this country stands indifferent to Julius Malema. The ANC Youth League’s charismatic bulldog has catapulted himself and his organisation into the forefront of the national consciousness like no one before.

Love or hate him, there is no denying that Juju has taken the kindergarten of the ruling party and made it a force to be reckoned with.

He has involved himself, and the league, in almost every social, political and economic issue in South Africa.

His utterances are greeted with joy by his followers, and his detractors pounce on every word to find a chink in his armour.

To explain the phenomenon that is Malema, we need to look at the strengths and weaknesses of his character. One of his strengths is undoubtedly his oratorical talents.

He captivates his audiences with one outrageous statement after another, and knows how to play to the gallery even if this means he comes across as a jester or a buffoon. He has an instinct for the popular.

While Malema’s oratorical abilities seem to have improved with time, the man remains rough around the edges.

He proved himself to be somewhat ruthless in dealing with dissent ahead of the ANC’s national general council last year.

The crushing of dissent should explain why there was no significant contest to his leadership this year.

Lebogang Maile’s belated entry into the leadership race has hardly changed the perception that Malema can’t brook internal dissent.

And the jury is still out on whether Malema’s league has paid adequate attention to issues affecting the youth.

Yes, the league might argue that it has taken on campaigns like providing free sanitary towels and opposing the mooted youth wage subsidy.

But the most pressing challenges facing black youth, which makes up the bulk of the the league’s membership and supporters, is unemployment.

Beyond the talk about nationalising mines the league has not come up with concrete proposals to deal with the scourge of unemployment.

Neither has it come up with good programmes for national cohesion among the youth. So it’s been easy to dismiss some of Malema’s calls as either an act of populism or pandering to vested interests within the ruling party.


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