Recently, I thought a remarkable medical break-through had been achieved in the Northern Province. Julius Malema had been admitted to hospital and soon after, his condition was described as "stable". Apparently for the first time in years! One wondered how his sturdy docs had accomplished this.
Anyway, the press conference on the verdict on him and his colleagues, was lucid - though tedious, long, fussy, dry as dust, wordy and detailed - and necessarily so. It needed to be thorough, and to emphasise a strict adherence to the rules.
That the group were nervous was revealed by the jumpy, irritable chairman, who berated the press as though they had shouted ugly comments, when there'd merely been a spontaneous "Ooh!" from some of the youngsters present. He seemed to be expecting attacks which never came. Julius was not present, being away, "writing exams". What exams, was not revealed. Perhaps in public relations? Anyhow, these penalties may at last offer a valuable opportunity for competent behavioural modification of what have been essentially behaviour problems.
Basic principles of brat-handling
The immaturity of his political style was so obvious, yet the party failed to follow through on that, or to recognise that they might need the advice of Supernanny. By applying the same sound principles she uses with the most awful kids, the situation could have been improved. Fond indulgence and ignoring bad behaviour only encourages Junior to become more outrageous.
Youngsters need clear, unambiguous structures within which to move, predictable and fair sanctions when they misbehave, rewards for good behaviour, and unanimity among the adults, rather than obvious divisions ripe to be exploited. Lest it be thought I'm being patronising in suggesting the use of methods used with infants and unruly adolescents, let's not forget that senior members of the ANCYL have surprisingly often referred to themselves as "children" and others have, remarkably, sought to excuse them on that basis.
Malema, and his close friends, have so often shown behaviour patterns typical of children desperate for attention - for whom even angry and unpleasant attention is far more welcome than none at all. There was a vicious cycle operating (sometimes more vicious than others).
When he feels he's receiving less attention than he wishes, he issues some provocative statement, or sings a song calculated to outrage others. None of the media or opposition politicians seemed able to resist the temptation to respond with the outrage on which he so obviously thrives. A combination of reliable wrath from those you want to annoy, and reliably passive silence from those with the power to provide discipline, is a sure recipe for escalating problems.
Will he sit on the Naughty Chair?
With children, placing them on the "Naughty Chair". or otherwise into time-out, can be a powerful tool in ending tantrums and providing a sanction that by withdrawing the attention that fuels their passions, creates calm.
How will Malema respond to his suspension? After so long an era of indulgence, he may seize the opportunity to form an independent movement, and to try to force his way towards power outside of the ANC.
But not having a Big Daddy to battle directly against may be less fulfilling. There are currently various other inquiries into his curious financial and business dealings, and his apparent ability to maintain a luxury life-style on a relatively average salary If these can be brought to completion soon (there's no obvious reason why they should take so long he may have a host of legal and other battles to deal with, without the funding and support of the ANC or ANCYL, and may become so pre-occupied in self-preservation as to be limited in his potential for further rabble-rousing.
Read more: The Sound of Malema
(Professor MA Simpson, November 2011)