Juju has none of Zuma’s clout

2012-03-03 09:42

As if on cue, just as a defiant Julius Malema finished his speech, a powerful but fleeting gust of wind swept over the stage and the small, dusty sports field in Kliptown, Soweto, and the 1 000-strong crowd.

They gathered there last Sunday for an ANC Youth League mini-rally to celebrate the ANC’s centenary.

The well-timed wind was reminiscent of the rain President Jacob Zuma seemed to command as he rose to power.

It poured for days in Polokwane when he was elected ANC president in 2007 and again in Pretoria on the day he was inaugurated president in 2009.

The rain became some kind of omen.

Malema’s flurry on Sunday seemed insignificant and didn’t even manage to coax the thunder clouds into offloading any water.

While he’s lost some support since the start of his disciplinary process in August, those behind him are enthusiastic and militant.

Many ANC youngsters love an underdog, and they were part of the machinery that helped Zuma fight the party’s then leader, Thabo Mbeki.

But this week Zuma’s ANC kicked Malema out after the youngster turned against the party’s incumbents. The best he can hope for after an appeal is suspension.

Like Zuma after he was fired as deputy president in 2005, Malema is defiant, but unlike Zuma, he has to be the cheerleader of his own cause.

Like Zuma, Malema is good at reinventing himself convincingly as the saviour of the poor.

And although like Zuma he has trusty lieutenants he can call on for support, unlike Zuma, these people are mostly confined to one structure – the youth league.

When Zuma was sacked from government by Mbeki, he still had much of the ANC on his side and his campaign had momentum. The national general council, which refused to allow Zuma to take leave as the party’s deputy president, happened soon after he was fired.

Zuma retained the ANC stage, and had support in big ANC provinces like KwaZulu-Natal and the Eastern Cape.

His court appearances – for rape and corruption – gave him an additional platform to make his voice heard.

Malema’s supporters came out only for the first day of his disciplinary hearing, and never again afterwards.

Malema’s future platforms will be outside the ANC and he’ll have to rely on his own popularity.

In his Limpopo stronghold he only has about 60% support, which would not be enough to sway the ANC nationally.

His income from sympathetic businesspeople there who relied on government tenders is also set to dwindle after the national government put the province under administration.

Campaigning is hard without the cash.

Zuma was able to draw on his deep struggle roots – and the Friends of JZ organisation – for financial backing.

Although Zuma was defiant, he subjected himself to ANC discipline and left it to others to do his battle talk.
Malema’s defiance, on the other hand, has overstepped ANC boundaries.

That said, Malema still seems to have friends in high places like ANC treasurer Mathews Phosa and North West Premier and ANC deputy secretary-general Thandi Modise.

If he successfully drives a campaign to install leaders sympathetic to him at the ANC’s Mangaung conference in December, the newbies might welcome him back into the fold.

So there is extra incentive for Malema to pull out all the stops – and he has licence to play as dirty as he chooses outside the ANC structures.

For the time being, though, it seems Malema’s ripple of wind will be dry and fleeting.

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