ANC priests chastise, lightly, the prodigal son

2010-05-15 00:00

DESPITE having had 16 years to adapt, the African National Congress still has to get to grips with democracy’s separation of party and state. Instead, ANC interests are invariably paramount and the party views even the sabotage of South Africa’s national interest as less reprehensible than bad-mouthing its leader.

The nominal disciplining of ANC Youth League (ANCYL) leader Julius Malema is a case in point. Malema’s most serious offences were to ignore a High Court ruling, abuse the judiciary and damage the South African government’s mediation efforts in Zimbabwe.

Malema should answer to these charges because they have an impact on matters of national importance.

Less important was his tirade against a “bastard” and “bloody agent” BBC correspondent, and then ejecting him from a press conference.

Crass though this was, journalists are accustomed to dealing with megalomaniacs and have their own quiet ways of exacting revenge. It is, in any case, in South Africa’s interest that the ANC — once portrayed in the international media as approaching secular sainthood — is exposed for its growing intolerance and racism.

At the ANC hearing, however, Malema’s attack on the judiciary did not even merit a charge. In similar vein, his singing “kill the boer” was assessed not as contempt of court, but “defiance of the ANC leadership”, which had asked for restraint while the High Court ruling was appealed.

This latter charge, as well as those of undermining South Africa’s efforts in Zimbabwe on behalf of the African Union, was dropped.

So, too, was that of “bringing the ANC into disrepute”, by abusing the BBC journalist. That left Malema facing a single charge, of comparing President Jacob Zuma with ex-president Thabo Mbeki.

South Africa’s president is so insecure that he feels “insulted” and his “stature undermined” because Malema suggested that Zuma’s rebuke of ANCYL loutishness was as harsh as Mbeki once was. This is beyond comedy — it is in the sad realm of pathological emotional impairment.

For this supposedly heinous crime, Malema was fined R10 000, a sum that the young tenderpreneur has probably trousered a thousandfold during his spectacularly rapid accumulation of wealth, and more significantly, he was ordered to apologise and attend political re-education classes.

Malema’s five-paragraph mea culpa is uncomfortably reminiscent of those grovelling pleadings favoured in the Communist show-trials. The main intention of such formulaic penitence is the public humiliation of the party member concerned, to serve as a salutary warning to others, while simultaneously extolling the wisdom and mercy of the party.

Malema apologises fulsomely to the “president of the ANC and the republic” for not only undermining comrade Zuma’s stature, but possibly also “undermining the confidence our people have in the leadership of the ANC”. Malema then quotes from an ANC policy document that “an abiding quality of leadership is to learn from mistakes, to appreciate weaknesses and to correct them.” He concludes: “I have learnt from this mistake and therefore submit myself to the discipline of the ANC.”

This is not much different from the rituals of repentance and forgiveness that some Christian churches demand of their congregants. All that is missing from the ANC’s fatherly but stern rebuke of the Kiddie Wing’s leader is three Hail Marys and an injunction to go forth and sin no more. It is mind-boggling that the governing party in a modern democracy believes that this charade was the best way to deal with a senior office bearer’s acts of lawlessness, racism and damaging interference in the country’s foreign policy.

Time magazine recently voted Malema one of its “morons of 2010”. They are quite wrong. He is as sly as a jackal and gets away with it yet again.

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