Zuma's dilemma

2008-11-15 00:00

The past week saw two more high-profile political activists leave the African National Congress (ANC) and join the Congress of the People (Cope). For Fatima Meer and former ANC communications chief Lulama "Smuts" Ngonyama, the party has moved so far from its struggle values that they have lost faith in it. As if confirming Ngonyama’s sad comment that offensively disrespectful behaviour has become more than he can tolerate, ANC Youth League president Julius Malema chose to insult Northern Cape premier Dipuo Peters on the platform of a gathering of party election volunteers waiting to hear Jacob Zuma speak.

Meanwhile, in Verulam, ANC members disrupted a meeting due to be addressed by Cope co-leader Mosiuoa Lekota.

As observed by Cope’s Phillip Mhlongo (another former senior ANC member), such “barbaric” behaviour is driving people out of the ANC.

Certainly for many decent people, the boorish rudeness and aggressive rhetoric of Malema and his ilk are wholly repugnant.

The public exodus from the ANC is swelling, and doubtless many more will use the privacy of next year’s ballot to switch allegiance.

For Zuma, the dilemma is also growing. As party leader and national president-in-waiting, Zuma should be giving a statesmanlike lead, reining in Malema and affirming democratic principle. That, however, would alienate his own populist support base. He should have brought Malema to heel a long time ago, and now, with the man he used to build his populist following actively ever contributing to his party’s disintegration, it is too late.

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