Childish rhetoric

2009-02-07 00:00

Reacting to the latest outburst from ANC Youth League president Julius Malema, the IFP’s Youth Brigade has called him a “loud-mouthed chatterbox imbecile”. It is a description which many may echo, although neither it nor the challenge to Malema to venture into the IPF heartland and the threats about what will happen if he does, will do anything to calm the political atmosphere. A degree of hot-headedness can be expected from politically active young people, but Malema is not all that young and if the IFP Youth Brigade’s response is intemperate, it is an understandable reaction to a singularly intemperate individual. A recent survey reported that the ANC Youth League is the least liked political organisation in the country. Malema must be responsible for much of that antipathy.

The question arises, therefore, why the leadership of the ANC has not done more to rein him in. Is there a leadership vacuum within the party, with senior members lacking the authoritative forcefulness to discipline the head of their youth wing? Or is it because the current ANC leadership is not only willing to condone Malema’s intimidatory outbursts against the judiciary, the Mbeki loyalists and political opponents of all persuasions, but are quietly content to have him say things that they themselves are constrained not to say? With political intolerance on the rise as the election approaches, there is every reason to reprimand Malema, unless the ANC’s commitment to democratic principle and practice is no more than a veneer starting to crack.

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