Malema questions reveal 'anxiety'

2010-10-15 08:32

Pretoria - Questioning if ANC Youth League leader Julius Malema will be re-elected at the league's next elective conference is a sign of an underlying anxiety in society, a University of Johannesburg academic said on Thursday.

While highlighting that society had created a "monster", Eusebius McKaiser - from the university's centre of ethics - thought it was "kind of cool" that Malema was in that position.

"It's not written in stone that he will stick it out. I think he will probably be re-elected, but it's not guaranteed," he told a seminar on politics and policy after the ANC's national general council last month, at the Institute for Security Studies (ISS) in Pretoria.

"My sense is that there is a lot of dissatisfaction with him, even within the ANCYL."

McKaiser said leadership dynamics within the league were often under-reported because other aspiring leaders were less popular and received less media coverage.

'Three kinds of Malema'

There were three kinds of Malema, he said.

"Julius Malema the myth, one with political power and the exaggerated Malema created by most of us... It's an anxiety that exists."

Political analyst Steven Friedman stressed the need for greater accountability in South African politics. No significant progress in fixing citizens' social problems could be made without it.

"Our fundamental development problem is a massive (gap) between those who take political decisions and those affected by those decisions," Friedman said.

"Until we address that, progress is going to be limited."

Friedman emphasised the need for a more "direct and appropriate" relationship between people in public office and those who elected them.

"... Which in theory is the way that the system is supposed to work, but which is not (the case) in many countries of the world."

The politicking at the centre of the ruling party had everything to do with this, he added.

No guarantees

After the ANC's 2007 elective conference in Polokwane, a particular kind of accountability had developed. This was one where office bearers in the ruling party and in the government were "painfully" aware that nobody was guaranteed retaining their post after the next ANC election.

Friedman described this as very effective pressure for accountability, which had made politicians in leadership positions in the ANC "very sensitive".

"They are much more sensitive than (former president Thabo) Mbeki and more sensitive than (former president Nelson) Mandela."

The battle within the ruling party however led to politicians worrying about themselves, instead of the well-being of the people, particularly those in informal settlements.

ISS senior research specialist Mcebisi Ndletyana predicated that nationalisation, as part of completing decolonisation, would not be implemented in the next couple of years.

"There will be a great deal of contestation going forward... I don't think it (nationalisation) will happen."

The ANCYL has called for the country's mines to be nationalised - placed under the control of the state.

Mixed messages

Ndletyana criticised the ANC leadership for saying one thing and doing another - sending mixed messages to the people that voted for it, while asking them to be patient.

He said there was impatience and a lot of disappointment with how current ruling party president Jacob Zuma had "conducted himself".

Asked about whether this could lead to regime change, Ndletyana answered: "My sense is that the ANC hierarchy... the leadership may well be comfortable with this lame duck presidency... ."

He said there was no "decisive, strong character" like Mbeki with whom people wouldn't discuss anything he didn't mention, or disagree with him.

"But with this president (Zuma), anything goes. So in an environment where everything is loose, people thrive in that situation just like people tend to thrive in times of war because there are no regulations... things are just messy."

Meanwhile, McKaiser blamed people for not voting to advance their own interests, but instead awarding the ANC their votes.


He pointed out that voter decision-making globally was not based on consequential consideration, but rather on identity politics and the "liberation narrative" - people identifying with the ANC's history and anti-apartheid struggle.

Friedman also shared similar sentiments, saying people normally voted like "electronic calculators".

"People vote on the basis of race, on the basis of people that speak like them."

There would be no alternative to the ANC until it split successfully, he said.

The ruling party needed to be more transparent, he said, opposing closed sessions such as those the ANC had at its recent national general council in Durban.

"Don't be surprised if what comes out is not what you want. If you want something to come out the way you want, be transparent."

Friedman said there was a need for journalists that were prepared to study documents and come up with innovative stories instead of "writing sluggishly about what the last politician said".