Young bums in search of butter

2009-12-19 00:00

THE silly season would be incomplete without clowns. Fortunately, with Julius Malema now a permanent centre-stage feature of South Africa’s political life, there is always some buffoonish behaviour to snigger at.

But no matter how unintentionally hilarious the president of the African National Congress Youth League seems, Malema is no laughing matter. Adolf Hitler, too, initially seemed a comic figure with his strutting behaviour and spittle-laden invective.

It is admittedly laughable that Malema wants the ANC to discipline its South African Communist Party allies for not allowing him to address their congress and for booing him. Such sensitivity from the man whose stormtroopers two years ago howled Terror Lekota from the podium of the Polokwane conference.

It is also risible that Malema so lacks a sense of irony that a man who boasted of being ready to kill for Jacob Zuma, runs snivelling to the president, demanding that those nasty jeering boys be thrashed for denting his pride.

What isn’t laughable is that Zuma thinks Malema will one day make a brilliant president for this country. This is not just a fond uncle loyally predicting a fine future for his favourite nephew, despite everyone else thinking that the kid is something of a retard. Zuma really believes it.

It is a grave indictment of Zuma that Malema — who persistently talks of violence against his opponents, who sends threatening text messages to rivals like the SACP’s Jeremy Cronin, who believes that he is above the law as regards traffic fines — could be considered as being of presidential calibre.

Malema exhibits the political finesse of the schoolyard bully. His modus operandi is to isolate his opponents from their support base by intimating that they are corrupt, are dangerously ambitious, or are betraying the ANC’s true ideals.

He then taunts and threatens the target, whipping his cohorts into a hate-filled frenzy. The language is deliberately intemperate: enemies must be “liquidated”, those who differ from him are issuing a “declaration of war” and must be “taught a lesson”, and his supporters will “unleash” their response.

There is some upside to this. The most recent targets of Malema’s ire are not the opposition, but the ANC’s nominal allies.

The result of this is the curious transformation of the ANC into both government and opposition, forming a vibrant multiparty democracy all by itself.

Indeed, the acrimonious attacks by various factions within the party upon one another turn the official opposition into a sideshow. Who cares about Helen Zille’s measured critiques, while Malema and Cronin are spectacularly ripping at each other’s jugulars?

Like the National Party of old, Malema has identified the Reds as the real enemy, but this time the Reds are not under the bed but in it. And as any decent bedfellow will attest, being booed in bed doesn’t make for cosy co-habitation.

Compounding the injury is the communists’ opposition to Malema and the ANCYL’s new pet project to nationalise the mines. This is not a selfish quest for dosh by the aspirant young comrades but will of course be done on behalf of the struggling masses. If you doubt their resolve, note that Comrade Malema has already single-handedly and rather noisily liberated a modest part of Sandton for the proletariat to party in.

With their penchant for designer labels and displaying their bare buttocks in public, Malema and the children of the revolution are clearly young bums in search of some serious butter. And as they cheerfully warn, they are ready to kill in order to get it.

It would be a dangerous mistake not to take them at their word.

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