A good lesson for Juju – if he has the nous for it

2010-05-15 15:22

It’s a slap on the wrist, but a very clever one. Whoever decided to sanction ANC Youth League president Julius Malema by making him attend anger management and political education classes is a political genius.

At once Malema has been allowed to save face, the governing ANC has avoided a militant battle with its league that would have hurt the mother ship more than the Young Turks and there is a measure of public ­censure in the creativity of the punishment he faces.

We’ve all had a bit of a laugh – to wit, the Nando’s ad published this week which suggests Malema “Kill the hunger. Kill the anger” by eating peri-peri chicken. Clever. But the youth league thinks it’s less than ­funny. Throughout the week it has put up a wall of collective solidarity.

The league is attempting to stimulate victimology by opening up an account for its membership to fund the R10 000 fine slapped on its president.

Some might argue that a young man with a R250 000 watch and a bling lifestyle could take the fine out of his own wallet, but the league’s bombast is not about the money. It is meant to reflect the ­principle of collective leadership and responsibility.

This is a laudable principle and one that has always bound the ANC in its almost 100 years of existence. The same principle is at work in the league’s insistence that its entire executive will go for anger management and ­effective political communication classes.

An important lesson will, however, be lost on Malema ­because of this collective responsibility. He is the league’s leader, and in each instance for which he faced charges, his own personality traits revealed an absence of leadership.

He embarrassed the country and showed little regard for media freedom by violently ejecting BBC journa­list Jonah Fisher from a news conference – and he did so alone while his fellow executives that day were trying to calm him down.

He embarrassed the country’s efforts to bring peace and stability to Zimbabwe by going on a visit to President Robert Mugabe, and revealed a lack of political sophistication by falling hook, line and sinker for a Zanu-PF propaganda tour of so-called “liberated” farms and factories.

Most ANC leaders know there is another side to this story and a set of costs that South Africa is bearing.

He acted as a lone cowboy by defying the ANC’s ­sensible injunction to its members not to inflame ­racial tensions in the week after the killing of rightwing ­leader Eugene Terre’Blanche.

In each of these instances Malema showed no respect for the ethos of collective responsibility and democratic decision-making. So he should not be protected by it now, but should face the censure of his party and use the opportunity to learn and become a stronger leader.

Instead, the league made a unilateral declaration of independence this week, saying it would campaign for its autonomy from the ANC.

Read this as a promise to continue as it did before Malema received a slap on the wrist. We hope the ANC will stick to its promise to suspend the young leader if he continues on the path of national and self-destruction.

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