Malevolent Malema

2008-06-20 00:00

Violence is a South African disease of epidemic proportions. That is why ANC Youth League (ANCYL) president Julius Malema’s Thaba Nchu speech — in which he claimed his supporters are prepared to kill to ensure Jacob Zuma becomes national president — was received with incredulity and widespread condemnation.

Asked for clarification, he went even further, warning counter-revolutionaries not to test his patience. Such people, he claimed, are found everywhere and even in the ANC, and could become a legitimate target for violence.

This involves a curiously contrived view of history. There was no revolution. South Africa owes its chance of becoming a modern democratic state to the negotiated settlement of the early nineties. Those who pretend otherwise have no regard for democracy, seeing it simply as a convenient stepping stone to permanent, unchallenged power.

Clearly Malema’s speech was a contribution to the personality cult around Zuma. He was present at the same rally, but reportedly did nothing to disassociate himself from the ANCYL president’s incendiary statements. If he ap-proved, what does this say about his political judgment?

Most astonishing of all, Malema has made violent threats against members of his own party, demonstrating extreme factionalism. Jesse Duarte’s unconvincing argument that the ANCYL is an autonomous body and a safety valve for hotheads has fooled no one: it is an integral and powerful element of the ANC.

The Human Rights Commission has called upon Malema to retract, but action is also required from the ANC itself. He should be called in, reprimanded and given a final warning that one more seditious statement or act of incitement that compromises the safety of fellow citizens will result in expulsion.

The ANC is in serious disarray: meetings have ended in chaos and now a senior official is threatening society at large. Commentators have described this as a public relations nightmare for the ANC. Indeed, it is. But it is an even greater threat to all those committed to a peaceful future for the nation; and also to its international image. It is time the ANC pulled itself together, rejected the opportunists in its ranks and behaved like a mature governing party.

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