Is Malema a Supernova?

Posted on | oktober 2, 2011 | No Comments

Julius Malema, the firebrand leader of South Africa’s ANC Youth League and lightning rod for controversy may find that his wave has crested too early. Recent polls indicate that his popularity is waning, particularly in the cities that provide so much of his support. This news should not come as a surprise. Of late when Malema has been in the news it has usually been for his antics and not for anything that would make observers think that he is a man of substance.

Malema is formidable because whatever his flaws, and they are legion, he has the populist’s touch. He is a capable speaker, he speaks his mind, and it does not hurt that he is not afraid to resort to demagoguery. And is he chooses he does, in fact, have some substance to him. As a consequence, many politicians would as soon keep Malema close to them as to try to keep their distance and in so doing become a target of his wrath.

But of course Malema’s political power is tied to his popularity. He is not going to work his way up the ranks of the ANC hierarchy. His appeal is his ability and willingness to go straight to the people and thus to circumvent  the traditional structures of the party. As soon as he loses some of that popular support the other stuff takes over and Malema becomes a liability. Malema might have been an intriguing choice as a potential ally (and possible Deputy Presidential choice) for politicians looking to challenge Jacob Zuma for the leadership of the ANC and thus the presidency of the country.

Now, short-term flesh wounds are not fatal wounds. And Malema remains formidable. But his status as potential kingmaker, and down the road as a future president of South Africa, looks more in doubt than it has since he exploded onto the political scene. Malema’s strength as a man of the people requires that the people continue to support him. That support is increasingly in doubt.

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


Leave a Reply

Page 1 of 11