The victory in loss

2010-10-09 10:45

Far from licking his wounds in the wake of the ANC’s national ­general council (NGC),
Julius Malema is alive and well and feeding off his recent victory.

 Though his critics are reluctant to cede him the triumph, it is hard to deny that he has managed to push nationalisation to the forefront of ANC discussion, and in so doing, has made it a key lobbying point for the party’s 2012 elective conference.

When the young ones descended on Durban, they were pushing mainly for a generational mix in the ANC’s leadership, the quashing of the ­disciplinary charges against Malema and ensuring that nationalisation was thoroughly discussed among the delegates, even though it was not an agenda item.

Though they failed on the first two, they focused the spotlight on ­nationalisation and apparently tapped into enormous support for it when it was debated in a commission halfway through the week.

That support was drastically ­diluted 24 hours later when the ­debate reached the plenary and ­voices of reason and logic waded in.

The grown-ups halted the young ones in their tracks but pledged to carry out a careful investigation of nationalisation across the world within the next two years, at the end of which a final decision will be made.

But in doing that, between them they made nationalisation the main rallying point for 2012, and the ­debate around it is likely to be ­incessant ­between now and then.

Malema could not have hoped for a better outcome and he has hardly let up on the pros of nationalisation, as he sees them, ever since.

The move could also have saved him another sit-down before the ANC’s disciplinary committee, in an indirect way.

Party president Jacob Zuma has warned that it is too premature to talk in terms of preferred candidates for the 2012 leadership contest, another hot favourite of Malema’s.

During the NGC, Zuma went as far as to say that “action would be taken” against ­anyone who defies him on this one.

But Malema has now excused ­himself from this one possible ­offence because with the ­nationalisation ticket in his hand, he has ensured that 2012 will no longer be contested around a second term for Zuma, or a key post for his ­right-hand man Fikile Mbalula.

In fact, he has even made the ­desired generational mix a redundant prerequisite.

Because to achieve his ultimate goal – a reinvention of the ANC – and ensure his wish list of ­cadres make it to the top, we can expect him to harp on about nothing but the control of the mines from now on.

But if that is a prospect that ­appears bleak, it may only be so on the surface because in scoring that victory on nationalisation, Malema may also have sealed his own ­downfall in the process.

Much like Malema, nationalisation is a very emotive topic and it’s hard to find anyone who does not hold strong views on the prospect of the country’s strategic mineral deposits falling into the hands of government.

Debates around the issue are ­understandably characterised by ­extremes and it is not inconceivable to think that a leadership race that is contested around nationalisation will have a similar effect.

And if that is so, it may well draw out the counterweight to Malema that the country has been waiting for since he came to power in 2008.

Such a scenario would also mark the first time in a while that a policy rather than a high-profile individual would capture the imagination of the ANC.

For too long, the party and the country have been consumed by one colourful cadre after another as a ­result of which internal party politics, rather than macropolicies, have become South Africa’s driving force.

This not to suggest for a moment that nationalisation ought to top the list of priority policies, but now that he has pushed it to the forefront of discussion, Malema has also placed a golden opportunity in the laps of his grown-up opponents in the ANC.

He has drawn a line in the sand and started a real debate about the future of South Africa, and the kind of ­country it can become with the likes of him as the driving force.

And one would hope that those who do not want to walk in the footsteps of the young ones would rise to the challenge that he has presented.

» Forde is a freelance journalist and is writing a book on Julius Malema

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