ANC 1-0 Malema

Posted on | november 10, 2011 | No Comments

Julius Malema

So the big news out of South Africa today is that Julius Malema, firebrand president of the ANC Youth League and general lightning rod for controversy has been suspended (or forced to “vacate his position”) for five years from the ANC. And for good measure the party also ousted the Youth League’s “arrogant” spokesman, Floyd Shivambu after he was found guilty on several charges for swearing at a journalist, and for accusing the ruling party of associating with imperialists.

So what to make of these decisions? They probably will provide a Rorschach test that will confirm whatever the beholder believes about the ANC. Some possible interpretations (note that not all of these are mutually exclusive):

Ah ha! Malema finally got what was coming to him. It has been evident for some time that Malema was going to receive some sort of punishment. This at least was decisive.

That the ANC is unwilling to acept dissent and thus is another sign of how far the party has come from the dreams of 1994.

That the ANC is unwilling to accept a certain kind of dissent and behavior that does harm to the party, and it took the proper action as parties in democracies around the world do all the time. After all, there is a reason why the position of party whip exists just about everywhere.

That in one fell swoop the ANC hierarchy has removed its greatest potential internal challenger. Jacob Zuma may have to face internecine struggles down the road for control of the party but Malema won’t be among those looking to wrest control from him. Of course now Malema may be able to parlay free agency into power. Is it absurd to think that the Democratic Alliance (DA) might go after Malema? It would seem so, except in South African politics there may be no scenario so absurd that it cannot happen. And there would be nothing absurd about the Congress of the people (COPE) going after Malema. Hell, for the time being COPE remains an agglomeration of egos as much as a political party. Why not add ne more to the cocktail and stir?

Whatever the interpretation, for the time at least, the old guard holds the upper hand over the Youth League and they have won decisively. Whatever dreams Malema might have had of a 1940s-style Mandela-Tambo-Sisulu Young Turks moment seems to have passed.

That said, only a fool believes that Malema will slink away with his head bowed. Malema is not the slinking type. I expect some sort of bombastic verbal throwdown any time now. It may not be all that edifying, but I expect that South African politics will be pretty entertaining for the next few days, weeks, months, and years. Then again, ’twas always thus, and always thus shall be.

AUTHOR: Derek Charles Catsam
E-MAIL: derekcatsam [at]


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