(Written 27 April 2011)
 
Dear All,
 
In this morning’s discussion (Cape Talk Radio, Redi Direko show) on ‘Mandela to Malema’ the interviewer and guests repeatedly made the point that South Africa faces bigger issues than the antics of Julius Malema. They were of the view that Malema is a paper tiger and should not be taken seriously. While they are quite right in suggesting that Malema the person is a buffoon not deserving of the publicity he gets, they are wrong in thinking that the Threat of Malema is harmless.
 
In passing, Mussolini had used the same rabble rousing techniques on a gullible, disillusioned public in Italy in the 1930s, and look where that got them. (Barzini, L. (1964). The Italians).
 
The Threat of Malema is not about the bling, the offensive remarks, the tenderpreneuring and the media hype. It is about the destructive combination of a politically savvy, manipulative and apparently quite unscrupulous character together with the great many desperate people in South Africa who believe that somehow a Malema-type figure can improve their lot in life.
 
Consider that Malema already holds a captured, disillusioned audience, rooted in the ANC. These are people who previously accepted the ANC’s voice of reason – a voice now recognised to have been a fraud – and they want a quick alternative. They are desperate enough to believe in simple solutions like the nationalisation of private assets without the slightest notion of how such assets could be distributed or managed, or what the inevitable consequences of such a move would be. It is a pattern that has seen the making of dictators elsewhere and while the prospect of a South African dictatorship may be remote, it is not unreasonable to ask whether there will be sufficient people in the ANC capable of upholding the Constitution if Malema’s influence continues to grow within that organisation? If the affable Jacob Zuma could so easily subvert South Africa’s judicial process, imagine what Malema can get up to if he gets into the presidential office.
 
Is Malema’s influence growing in the ANC? Well, it has been suggested that the ANC does not discipline Malema because the cost of omission is less than the cost of commission. Perhaps so, but it is far more likely the ineffectual Jacob Zuma cannot discipline the president of the ANCYL because there is a sizable portion of the ANC membership ready to accept the charismatic irrationality of a Julius Malema. For all his faults, Zuma has always got one thing right, he has always known which way the political wind is blowing. This would suggest that there is no-one left in the ANC with the credibility to expose the lie of Julius Malema, which is why the public and the media might be able to ignore the man that is Malema, but the country simply cannot afford to ignore the threat that is Malema. (Note: In Nov 2011 Malema was expelled from the ANC and the decision is subject to appeal.)
 
Jeff Fearon
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