Julius has created his own opposition

2010-04-17 13:36

‘THE problem in this country is Thabo Mbeki and his people,” Julius Malema said back in 2008. Fast forward to April 11 2010, and Malema reacts to ­being lambasted publicly by President Jacob Zuma in the following way: “Even President Mbeki, I have ­never seen him doing that before.”

It is too early to write Malema’s political ­obituary, but the balance of power within the ANC and its alliance is shifting from the periphery to the centre. Zuma and his national executive committee’s (NEC’s) denouncement of behaviour that is “alien” to the ANC is, in part, a move to assert the power of the centre.

The post-Polokwane ANC regime under Zuma had too many centres of power.

This situation opened the gap for other political figures to step up to the plate and drive the ­campaign for Zuma’s leadership of the ANC.

A few notable figures in this regard include ­Cosatu’s Zwelinzima Vavi, the SACP’s Blade ­Nzimande and, indeed, Julius Malema.

For a ­moment after Zuma became president the situation appeared as if it was a “free for all”. ­Pronouncements came from all sides. Vavi ­expressed Cosatu’s unhappiness with Minister Trevor Manuel as the head of the Planning ­Commission in the Presidency.

But the most telling was when Vavi stated that Zuma would serve a second term. Not to be ­outdone, Gwede Mantashe summoned Minister Barbara Hogan to Luthuli House to account for a certain ministerial matter.

Recently, Malema went to Zimbabwe and met Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe. In the process, Malema ­contradicted Zuma on South ­Africa’s stance on Zimbabwe.

The sum total of all of this indicated that there were just too many centres of power in the ANC.

This means, in essence, that there is no centre of power or that the centre is not holding.

Consequently, doubt was cast on Zuma’s ability to lead. The “free for all” pronouncements by ­tripartite leaders created the salient perception that Zuma owed his position to certain political figures within the alliance.

Perhaps due to his political maturity and ­discussions with the ANC, Vavi has since scaled down on his pronouncements.

But Malema’s constant outbursts on virtually all matters derailed Zuma’s move towards a publicly visible leader.

The more Malema crossed swords with leaders within the alliance – Vavi, Mantashe, ­Hogan, Shabangu and now Zuma – the more he fostered a ­growing unhappiness within the ANC towards him, and pressure on Zuma to act against him.

This is the point that Malema might have missed when he went on the rampage against Mbeki after Polokwane. Malema had the cushion of the power bloc that was destined to be the leadership of the ANC after Polokwane. Mbeki stood to gain nothing by castigating him.

Meanwhile, Zuma has all to gain in castigating Malema, and all to lose by not doing so. He stands to affirm his leadership, show that he and his NEC are in firm control, affirm to society that he can fix his political house and that the ANC under his leadership is not degenerating into a “free for all”.

Thus, while Malema may not be “shaken”, he should consider two points.

First, Bantu Holomisa’s case presents a relevant precedent for him.

Second, his political behaviour has ­inadvertently built and consolidated a power bloc within the ANC against him. This bloc calls on ­Zuma to “show leadership” on this matter, which is, to “deal with Malema”.

And when Zuma acts against Malema, he will be consolidating his leadership and stature.

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