Simon Williamson

No end to Malema

2011-09-16 11:30

Simon Williamson

The chattering classes have been salivating for the last fortnight over Julius Malema’s possible exit from the ANC. But even if he gets turfed, they shouldn’t.

Malema is in a bit of a hole at the moment. He’s trod on the toes of the six most powerful people in the ANC, had his posse throwing bits of Johannesburg around the CBD (and miraculously finding stones - has anyone worked out how they did that?) and could possibly be banished from the organisation that helped create him. The capitalist, privatised portion of the country, who would gladly smack him with the free market, are grinning immeasurably at the probable downfall of 70% of the reason they open newspapers.

But battling and winning against Malema may bring down the man, but will not silence his ideology: none of it is exclusive to him.

While we may associate Malema with nationalisation and land redistribution, he has merely been more vocal about it than other people. And even if he did think of it initially (which he didn’t), he has made it such a topical issue that everyone now has an opinion on it. Cosatu, in fact, has had the nationalisation of mines as a goal since Helen Zille looked old.

Land redistribution, one of South Africa’s real issues which needs to be grappled with smartly, effectively and soon, is also not a new thing. Malema is simply advocating the same principle without paying; hardly something about which he’s the first to spout ideas.

He also didn’t write Ayesaba Amagwala, the “dubula ibhunu” song (which you might know as “shoot the boer”), and most certainly isn’t the only person who sings it. Indeed, if you ask around enough you’ll understand where and how the song was used before it leapt into the English and Afrikaans South African media.

Aside from these factors, even if Malema is turfed from the ANC, which is unlikely, it’s not going to be the end of him. His role in the ANC Youth League is not the only reason he rose to prominence; other than Peter Mokaba and Nelson Mandela, have you heard of a youth league president who made headlines so often? Malema is up there because he knows how to stay prominent. In fact he understands how to stay in the headlines pretty damn well; at the time of writing, three of the most read articles on News24 featured him. He doesn’t need to rely on his presidency to remain important.

So don’t think that his disciplinary hearing, his sacking or even his retirement from public life will stop the nationalisation debate, land expropriation or regular Malema-like sound bytes. These are a very prominent part of our national discourse now and will regularly face very public debate.

Even if Malema never finds power, his political ideological work here is done.

- Simon Williamson is a freelance writer.

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