Malema’s lifestyle: Is it our business?

2011-07-23 16:43

Are Julius Malema’s financial affairs the public’s business or not? Malema and his backers say no.

ANC Youth League (ANCYL) spokesperson Floyd Shivambu says: “It is ­stupidity to think that if you are a known person, you are accountable to the ­media. Malema is not a public ­representative.”

Shivambu’s views are backed by the ANC, social commentator Khaya Dlanga, TV host Penny Lebyane and Metro FM DJ Sbu.

DJ Sbu says Malema is entitled to his privacy. “The media is being unethical and unfair to Malema. He has not ­committed any crime.”

The ANC has also accused the media of ­being unfair to Malema.

Says ANC spokesperson Keith Khoza: “We concur with Malema that as a private citizen he should be treated as such. He is the leader of an ANC structure, so he is accountable to the league and the ANC. He can’t be treated like someone who holds public office.”

Dlanga says media suspicions about Malema’s wealth should be backed up by evidence.

“I don’t think he should be subject to a different set of rules because some people dislike him.”

Lebyane says the media is being ­“unnecessarily intrusive”.

“Malema is entitled to his privacy. If he wants to build a house, let him do so.”

Veteran journalist and former City Press editor Mathatha Tsedu says ­Malema is both right and wrong about being a private citizen.

“Although he does not hold any public office, he is the leader of the ANCYL and the ANC runs the country.

“In that sense, he ought to be able to say to South ­Africans that what he has achieved or not achieved has been through kosher means.”
Wits journalism professor Anton ­Harber says political leadership is about character and values, and that Malema must expect scrutiny.

“Malema is right that he does not have the formal obligations of a public official, but as a politician and public figure, he should expect to have to account for his lifestyle choices, particularly when they appear to be so out of step with his salary and his professed commitment to fighting poverty and inequality.

“Just imagine that he has taken money from a major business figure who is a candidate for higher office. Surely we need to know if such a person has bought favours from the youth league leader.

“It is a question of whether he accepts the constitutional commitment to transparency and accountability for leadership.”

Political analyst Steven Friedman says it is “pure nonsense” for Malema to say he is not a public figure.

“He is the puppet of those who pay for his lifestyle. He is their servant, a well-paid servant.”

Hennie van Vuuren from the Institute for Security Studies says the media and civil society have every right to ask probing questions about Malema’s ­lifestyle.

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