Marikana master plan

2012-08-25 18:24

The Marikana killings have provided a convenient platform for expelled ANC Youth League leader Julius Malema to regain lost political ground.

Advised by new kids on the block, the Friends of the Youth League (FYL), to “seize the opportunity”, Malema became the first politician to set foot on the koppie outside Nkaneng informal settlement where police shot dead 34 striking miners last week.

A government official who is supporting the FYL in its efforts to oust ANC president Jacob Zuma said the main focus of Malema’s ­active role in Marikana was “to rub salt into Zuma’s political wounds to deepen the crisis”.

It was all a carefully thought-through plan, said an FYL coordinator in the Eastern Cape, who added that a “national network” advising Malema and the FYL ­advised him to “promptly intervene”, because Zuma was not going to visit the informal settlement, while the wounds were still fresh.

“We wanted to make sure they get embarrassed. We discussed it and said it must be done that way,” said the Eastern Cape source.

The government official said the FYL was now “on fire. They’re ­motivated by the latest developments (in Marikana).”

The warm reception Malema ­received from the grieving mine workers in the past two weeks ­signalled that he still appeals to the poor, a constituency whose ­struggles he always claimed to champion.

He successfully exploited the slow response by both the ANC and the government to the ­Marikana crisis.

Though labelled an opportunist by political heavyweights such as Mineral Resources Minister Susan Shabangu and Cosatu general secretary Zwelinzima Vavi, his acceptance by mine workers presented him as a trusted leader during a period when loss and pain was brewing anger towards government.

Vavi described Malema as a “wealthy, essentially right-wing leader who demagogically exploits any perceived weaknesses (of the National Union of Mineworkers) to encourage workers to leave their union”.

But not everyone shares that view and some believe Malema is simply filling a vacuum created by poor leadership.

The government official said Malema was on several occasions invited to address workers who are at odds with their employers.

Earlier this year, Malema intervened in the Implats strike.

“Workers believe the NUM is no longer their true representative because (the union) is funded by mining houses to sell workers out.

The ANC is no longer there (for them), so they run somewhere else (to Malema),” said the official.

Malema also projected himself as a leader capable of holding things together when Zuma appeared uncertain about how to ­respond to Marikana. A second FYL coordinator said: “Julius felt he needed to go there (to support mine workers)”.

Malema’s strategy to remain ­politically relevant is based on ­capitalising on Zuma’s political blunders.

His challenge, however, is to sustain momentum beyond Marikana, while Zuma, on the other hand, is faced with a mammoth task of demonstrating to the country that he’s not the lame-duck president his enemies make him out to be.

To maintain Malema’s presence in the public space, former ANC Youth League spokesperson Floyd Shivambu said the FYL will send representatives to mine workers’ funerals, particularly in the Eastern Cape where 28 of the 34 slain miners lived.

The FYL was launched in this province and enjoys large support.

Malema will frequent Marikana “if there’s a need to go there” in the course of helping mine workers.

Efforts to secure the arrested mine workers’ release included ­organising legal representation for them, said Shivambu.

He accompanied Malema when he visited miners in police cells.

Four attorneys and four advocates, including Dali Mpofu and Patric Mtshaulana, who both represented Malema during his ANC disciplinary case, would work on the cases for free.

The government official said the FYL regarded Zuma as someone in self-destructive mode, making it easy for Malema to sustain a comeback campaign until Mangaung.

“The textbooks (delivery saga), The Spear, Zumaville and the ­Marikana killings (happened) within a short space of time,” said the official.

Malema will now present himself as a spokesperson of the struggling mine workers. He’ll lead an FYL delegation to intervene in the Lonmin labour dispute, allegedly at the request of mine workers.

The FYL also plans to visit other mines where workers are unhappy.

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