There is no mincing words around the topic: Julius Malema is not a popular guy among much of South Africa's population. He has managed to bridge a divide only formerly occupied by crime and high fuel prices, intimidating people both in the ANC and on the other side of the fence. Granted, his appeal to the disenfranchised of South Africa is the root of his power and, as many analysts have warned, this factor should not be underestimated - if only because those people are clearly gagging for an outlet and a public voice.
But this is not why Malema's dismissal concerns me. Nor the circumstances: all the ANC leaders did was give him enough rope. Eventually he and his ilk would say something stupid. Threatening a sovereign nation would do the trick. Malema did himself in and it is his fault.
But more worrying is how happy everyone is about it. The big, bad Malema is gone. Zuma cleans up his house. Change is coming! Alas, all I can see is smart politics and a president consolidating his power. When Jacob Zuma successfully seized the ANC presidency, many started to predict that his anti-Mbeki alliance would crumble. That he was in trouble and the whole business would fracture. But with Malema we saw a politician who is clearly pulling the right strings and axing the right people - for him.
It is an open secret that there is much in-fighting in the ANC, something that in the long term would be useful. Surely more can be done once the ruling party learns that there are alternatives to voting along the party line. But this is not likely to happen soon, since Zuma just sent a clear message: either you work for me or you get crushed. Malema made that mistake and he paid dearly. 5 years is a ridiculous sentence. It effectively kills his political career and he isn't likely to recover, unless he is smart about it. In a pool of sharks losing your teeth is a permanent thing, even if they grow back.
Did we all forget the pre-Malema ANC, when we were all more concerned about Zuma? Malema was useful to distract from the other problems - dodgy ministers, internal conflicts and shady goings-on. Now he is gone and we are all happy. Happy for what? That a plausible critic and antagonist to the president was squashed with such ease? And with such swift brutality? If anything, it shows that unless a politician is squeaky-clean, they will likely be blackmailed into supporting ideas and ideologies that are not necessarily for the greater good of the nation...