Ferial Haffajee

Malema's game plan

2010-05-04 15:16

"What?! On the record?" I asked news editor Japhet Ncube on Saturday night as he briefed us after a conversation with journalist Piet Rampedi who had just spoken to ANC Youth League president Julius Malema.

Malema, in a jovial mood at his ally deputy police minister Fikile Mbalula’s anniversary celebration in the Free State, told Rampedi that he was only returning from the province on Monday night.

This was an up-yours to the governing ANC, it seemed, for Malema was due at the party’s HQ, Luthuli House, bright and early on Sunday morning to face a tough disciplinary committee headed by party veteran Derek Hanekom.

After a series of public embarrassments, including the infamous “Bloody Agent” ejection of a BBC journalist from a press conference, the ANC announced last month that Malema would face disciplinary charges.

While Malema denied charges, by all accounts he appeared on Sunday but proceeded to ensure that national executive member Collins Chabane (minister in the presidency) recused himself. Two other members of the disciplinary committee also recused themselves ostensibly busy but I think too scared or too wily to take on the young turk.

Putting up a tough fight

Malema put up a tough fight demanding to know where the charges emanated from and refusing to accept that it is organisational censure. His game-plan is to isolate secretary-general Gwede Mantashe who has become his enemy number one.

When President Jacob Zuma upbraided him in April, calling his behaviour alien, Malema looked visibly shocked.

Not even his nemesis, former president Thabo Mbeki, had publicly criticised a comrade so publicly, complained Malema. Since then, Malema has worked the party, lobbying against the charges he faces.

Now Malema is super-confident because I believe he and his lieutenants know the disciplinary process will end in a smack on the wrist and that no serious sanction will be allowed.

He will plead guilty on a minor misdemeanour, as the Sunday Times reported at the weekend, and continue his path to the highest office in the land. The depleted disciplinary committee has the dice stacked against them recommending censure commensurate with the harm that Malema is causing to the reputation and standing of the ANC.

Why? Consider that Malema has the support of Zuma, the treasurer-general Mathews Phosa, (who will represent him), the deputy secretary-general Thandi Modise and the national chairperson Baleka Mbete and my money is on them going easy on Malema no matter what the committee may find.

From whence springs the young man’s power to sway almost the entire leadership? Zuma, for one, treats him like an indulgent father would treat a wayward son, and he certainly will not support expulsion or suspension.

Malema’s real power lies in the fact that the League is the strongest lobby in the ANC - it campaigns with military precision and was instrumental in Zuma’s bid for the party presidency.  Since then, the League has begun placing leaders in the provincial executives of the governing party as it plans for 2012 when the ANC will hold its next elective conference. In September this year, the first part of its master plan will be tested as the League attempts to eject secretary-general Gwede Mantashe from office and replace him with Mbalula.

Keep the League happy

Anyone with an eye on a political future must keep the League happy and that means going easy on the kingmaker.

If you want to see the real countervailing force over the anti-democratic tendencies of the Youth League president, keep an eye on the provincial youth league elective conferences now starting.

Malema’s presidential style and his aggrandising ways have not won him many friends and his power base is a seething mass of unhappiness as witnessed by the violent confab in Limpopo last month. These are the forces, which will temper him, not this week’s sham disciplinary hearing that started on Monday morning in Luthuli House.

- Ferial Haffajee is editor of City Press.

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Read more on:    anc  |  ancyl  |  ferial haffajee  |  jacob zuma  |  julius malema  |  gwede mantashe
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