Georgina Guedes

Julius Malema: South Africa's unlikely hero

2014-08-22 13:17

Georgina Guedes

Julius Malema took to the stage… er… Parliament with two main intentions, as far as I can work out. His first goal was to humiliate the president who either failed to protect him from or had set him up for legal action. The second was to push through some fairly concerning economic policies.

Yesterday, Malema's EFF MPs disrupted a session of Parliament by chanting "pay back the money" in the wake of President Zuma's failure to respond to the question of when he would be doing so. A scuffle broke out, and the EFF people were ultimately removed from Parliament by the police.

EFF spokesperson Mbuyiseni Ndlozi gives a fairly cogent rationale for their protest, which you can read about here, and EFF and the ANC are now involved in a lovely case of political mudslinging as they try to establish who brought the greater shame on Parliament.

We can say with certainty that Malema is doing quite well at achieving his first goal.

Malema's actions

But here's the funny thing. Somewhere in the convoluted mess of his intentions - ostensibly of bringing about economic liberation for the black people of South Africa, certainly securing his own power, and without question shaming those who thwarted him - he's actually doing a pretty good job.

The day after he pitched up to be sworn in to Parliament in red overalls and a miner's helmet, I posted a column about how he is really good at making a statement, but as much as we applaud him, his uniform wouldn't make him a leader. His actions would have to speak for themselves.

Soon after, he made arrangements with Sars to pay back what he owed them, and apologised publicly for his lack of respect for the law. So that was a good first step.

And now, we have in Parliament a group of MPs who aren't afraid of anyone, are not bound by convention, and have no problems with raising a ruckus and being escorted out of the building by the authorities. It makes for a great show.

The psyche of the nation

While I don't trust Malema as far as I could throw him (to clarify, that's not very far – he's big, I'm little), I do believe that he is an excellent addition to Parliament. And by this, I don't mean because I can wring my hands with glee at the trouble he's causing for the big, bad, black government that is bringing the country to its knees.

I simply mean that by being there, and by asking the questions that he does, and by making a stand for the downtrodden, without any care for social nicety or Parliamentary convention, he's having a far greater impact than any other opposition party on the national psyche.

While I don't believe that if he were to come into power, he would be answering those questions any differently himself, for now, he's the asker. And he's doing a brilliant job at that.

- Georgina Guedes is a freelance writer. You can follow @georginaguedes on Twitter.

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