Malema has recreated 'anti-apartheid' sentimentality among young UK elite

2015-12-02 05:41

While Julius Malema's plans to engage British Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn may have come to nought, his whistle-stop tour of the UK has certainly emphasised that among certain constituencies, his revolutionary rhetoric resonates deeply.

While the media naturally paid close attention to his controversial statements about Nelson Mandela, which bordered on outright derision of the former president, Malema's address at Oxford Union was perhaps even more noticeable for the reaction of his audience.

Alongside numerous reports of the address were images of Malema holding court in front a rapt, mostly white and decidedly privileged audience. Given the context of his speech, one might have expected those well-to-do visages to be recoiling in horror, the blasphemy of soiling Mandela's legacy too much for their political sensibilities.

Instead, those faces reflected a kind of lurid intoxication, some brandishing an almost sadistic sneer willing the ringmaster to more ruthless acts of subversion. That the EFF leader was cast in his fighting fatigues and revolutionary beret only fuelled the spectacle.

Students, be they in Pretoria or London, Washington or Potchefstroom, are drawn to insurrection. The more modern-day Che Guevaras, the better.

And Julius Malema knows this.

Universities pride themselves on espousing liberal ideals, which is why so many students flex their ideological muscles by staging protests and sit-ins. Indeed, the South African #RhodesMustFall movement was a catalyst for a parallel uprising at the very Oxford at which Malema spoke.

The all-encompassing drive to be in "solidarity" with their student brothers and sisters harked back to the golden era of student protests in the 60s and 70s, when adolescent activists came together to champion the civil rights movement and the end to insurgencies in countries that superpowers had no business being in.

It is a highly romanticised indulgence most students engage in at one time or another, an opportunity to "stick it to the Man" and show that they will not be bullied by anyone, ever.

For someone who has become a past master at guilt politics and populism, this ultra-Leftist mindset is a manna from heaven.

Malema need only look to history to see how effective it has been in the past. The British Anti-Apartheid Movement, comprised of hundreds if not thousands of student activists, was instrumental in having sanctions imposed on South Africa's Nationalist government.

Although Malema's meeting with Corbyn did not come to fruition due to the Labour leader having to contend with unhappiness in his own ranks, it would not have been lost on him that Corbyn was one of Britain's most prominent anti-apartheid activists at the height of the struggle.

What Malema has effectively done by targeting these institutions and leaders during his visit is recreate sentimentality among youth and youth-minded individuals. He has painted himself as the victim of a toxic regime, but one who will rail tirelessly against the tide, just as those who came before him did.

Sympathies are now with him, as he has struck at the heart of the British elite's liberal consciousness.

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