FIRST TAKE | Julius Malema, the ultimate agent provocateur, beats the ANC again

Julius Malema, leader of the Economic Freedom Fighters at the State of the Nation Address on February 13, 2020 in Cape Town. (Photo by Gallo Images/Jeffrey Abrahams)
Julius Malema, leader of the Economic Freedom Fighters at the State of the Nation Address on February 13, 2020 in Cape Town. (Photo by Gallo Images/Jeffrey Abrahams)

Julius Malema's goading, prodding and knifing of the ANC has again paid off - in leaps and bounds.

His performance on Tuesday, during the first day of the debate on President Cyril Ramaphosa's State of the Nation Address to a joint sitting of Parliament last week, saw the ANC fall for his provocation and antics for what feels like the thousandth time since he left the mother organisation in 2013.

Malema's riotous exit from the National Assembly, amid insults and threats hurled from an incensed and hysterical ANC, again saw him dominate the day's proceedings. And it saw the ANC hyperventilate and publicly lose control of proceedings in the National Assembly for the umpteenth time.

Malema is the country's ultimate agent provocateur. He can change course, amend his beliefs and adapt his stories in a heartbeat. He can needle and exploit any weakness in a political opponent and makes his enemies pay dearly for moments of weakness, lapses in judgement or a rush of blood to the head.

And he has the cynical ability of forcibly prising open fault-lines, fissures and divisions in society for his own populist ends. He shamelessly uses race to attack enemies (he has no opponents) and disingenuously leverages apartheid to draw attention from his own murky affairs, including VBS Bank, On-Point Engineering and the discharge of a firearm in public.

READ | Adriaan Basson: De Klerk and Malema’s gift to Ramaphosa 

The EFF and Malema's brand of politics is toxic and destructive, it is hostile towards constitutionalism, distrustful of democracy and antagonistic towards Indian and white South Africans. The party's shameful actions during Ramaphosa's speech last week, and Malema's taunts on Tuesday, underscores its flat refusal to engage in constructive politics.

For Malema and the EFF, it is a scorched-earth policy. Nothing else.

What of the ANC?

The governing party, which spawned Malema and his colleagues, has shown a singular and spectacular inability to neuter Malema, or at the very least to manage him in arenas like the National Assembly.

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The party's whippery, led by inexperienced chief whip Pemmy Majodina, miserably failed to take control of the situation when Malema started building up a head of steam.

It was total folly to get involved in a to-and-fro with Malema about who is a wife beater and who is not. Besides the absolute futility of the exercise, it had Parliament plumb new depths as far as debate, reason and substance are concerned. And Parliament has in recent times outdone itself when it comes to shallowness and vulgarity.

The ANC whippery could clearly not control its MPs and looked like it did not even attempt to defuse or guide the situation. It was perfect for Malema who used his time at the podium to maximum effect. His supporters lapped up every moment.

The ANC has always been afraid of Malema, of what he knows about the party's inner workings and what he is capable of. He articulates what many in the party believe but are too afraid to say. And he can ruthlessly and publicly expose the governing party's miscalculations and weaknesses.

If the ANC cannot control its impulses, Malema will win, time and time again.

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