Juju’s war now has two fronts

2015-02-10 06:01

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Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) leader Julius Malema is not planning to take his young and beautiful wife to the state of the nation address in Parliament this week.

This is not because a socialist Malema is averse to glitz, glamour and the red carpet. On the contrary, he and his friend, Floyd Shivambu, lived the high life for many years.

Dressed to the nines, they loved to socialise and flashed their bling in expensive cars.

No, Malema is leaving his wife, Mantwa, behind because he “is going to war” in Parliament.

He is determined to interrupt President Jacob Zuma’s state of the nation address (Sona) because he believes he is enforcing presidential accountability. Malema seems determined to make his point on Thursday.

This is despite advice from fellow opposition parties and pundits that Sona is an annual event to be treated with the decorum and dignity it deserves.

Malema has been advised that the occasion of Sona is not a site for the mud wrestling he and other EFF MPs get down to most of the time.

The ANC has also given the undertaking that there will be three days set down for debate after the Sona, in which Malema can make his points about Zuma, but he is not accepting that.

So impatient is he, the EFF website has a clock counting down the minutes and seconds to the fateful hour of the opening of Parliament.

Because if there’s anyone who knows how to milk a moment for his own publicity, it’s Malema.

Whatever happens on the day, be it a spat with the Speaker, security being called in to force him out or fisticuffs becoming the order of the day, he knows he will make it on to newspaper front pages.

He will also have succeeded in his endeavour to convince South Africans his party is the one best placed to effectively confront President Zuma and the ANC on corruption and accountability.

This appears to be his game plan – to be a nuisance to the governing party so his name and that of the EFF are the only ones voters will remember when they think of opposition to the ANC.

It does not matter what the cause is – be it water provision or land invasions. All his strategies are meant to force the ANC’s hand in one way or another.

In its year-long planned programme of land invasions, the government could concede and hand over the land to the invaders or be forced to use heavy-handed measures to remove them in ways that will be likened to the apartheid government’s handling of any land issue.

The EFF can still claim credit if the government becomes proactive and declares new land proposals.

But using heavy-handed tactics will be an echo of Marikana, where the democratic government allegedly sent in police to kill protesting mine workers in 2012.

Historians may debate who started the conflict, but they will certainly record it was under the ANC government that blue-collar workers fighting for a living wage were massacred.

But the plan can still backfire if South Africans become tired of the EFF’s brinkmanship and lose sympathy for a youthful party desperately seeking martyrdom.

Interestingly, the going is good for Malema as long he is taking the battle to the governing party. It is in fighting the rearguard battle where he is most vulnerable and has the most to fear.

From the time just before its national conference last year, which the party termed the National People’s Assembly (NPA), there have been persistent rumours of unhappiness in the ranks of the EFF.

In particular, the gripe has been that Malema runs the party in an autocratic manner.

At the NPA, members complained of a choir-like arrangement in which people voted by raising their hands. The complaint was that Malema dictated the voting patterns.

Whoever he raised his hand to support was voted into the central command (the EFF’s executive committee) as the membership overwhelmingly looked to him for guidance.

And whoever he did not raise his hand for did not make the numbers to get into the central command.

No one wanted to publicly denounce his choices.

But the deeper battles are still going to be fought inside the party about what character the EFF takes – whether it becomes a mass party like the ANC that will pursue power, or if it will remain a small, radical party with powerful ideas that is committed to bringing about a revolution, as it promised when it was formed.

Does it become a party with a strong internal democracy or will it be Malema’s combative attitude of “my way or the highway”?

Malema has never been shy to purge enemies in his previous incarnation as ANC Youth League leader, but he now has to worry that he does not alienate enough people for them to coalesce into a strong faction that can weaken his party.

There are many examples in this country of political parties that initially garnered public sympathy and votes but fell apart due to internal wrangling.

There is enough push and pull from founder members Mpho Ramakatsa, Andile Mngxitama and other disaffected members from Gauteng and the Free State for Malema to worry about.

He appears to be facing the dilemma of how to win the hearts and minds of the public while avoiding an internal explosion.

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