A sophisticated kind of democracy

What to make of Julius Malema’s fulsome apology to “the lady and to the Sonke Gender”? It seems pretty heartfelt, and appears to be genuine. According to the South African Press Association (via the Star), Malema’s words were, “I am sorry, sorry and very sorry about that. And commit not to repeat the similar mistake again. Issues of women are sensitive, and once a person says ‘I’m offended’, it doesn’t matter whether you are right or not, you must have the capacity to say sorry.”

Some people, tired of having the bogeyman leering over their shoulder all the time, will gratefully accept this volte-face as an excuse to relinquish their oft irrational fears: “See, he’s not so bad after all. Maybe he’ll be a good president in 2017.”

Others will note the caveat. “It doesn’t matter whether you are right or not, you must have the capacity to say sorry,” seems to indicate a mature political standpoint, rather than a change of opinion. Clearly, there’s room for interpretation here, as there always is with the words of politicians. Again, some will see this as a positive sign of an emerging statesman to compliment the fervent revolutionary in Malema.

That’s what we’ve come to. Our definition of a good politician is one who might think women are sluts, gays are animals, and men are there to take bribes, but is okay as long as he (or she) keeps it to himself. It’s a sophisticated kind of democracy, and I guess that’s good. Very Western. The Constitution is the thing, and Section 16 guarantees everyone the right to talk absolute kak. Yep, a principle worth dying for.

In handing down judgment in a hate speech case against Malema in the Equality Court in March 2010, magistrate Colleen Collis couldn’t resist giving Malema a bitch-slapping. “Mr Malema, being a man of vast political influence, be wary of turning into a man that often speaks but never talks,” she said. Ouch.

The ANC Youth League will watch our back
What will we do if Malema turns into Nelson Mandela? Where will the good citizens of South Africa (well, the ones who don’t revere Malema) get their sense of self-righteous outrage? More importantly, who will be keeping vigilant so that big business and its eager handmaiden, creeping apartheid, don’t exploit our relatively new freedoms. Fear not! We still have the ANC Youth League itself to watch our back.

Here’s an extract from the league’s recent love letter to “Cde Jimmy”, supporting him in his principled stand against the Fourth Estate (which is a suburb next to Houghton Estate, I think).

“These notorious tendencies are unwelcomed and we will never allow ourselves to be slaves of media prejudice, discrimination and victimisation that remains an extension of attempted re-emergence of apartheid.”

This heartfelt battle cry is backed up with the usual closely collated body of evidence: “The media is committed to false reporting and spreading of lies. There have been numerous incidents of such attacks against the leadership of the ANC and the ANCYL. Even after having engaged with journalists and editors, the desperation to sell newspapers and false news remain at the core of their agenda to advance a raw, disrespectful, inconsiderate and selfish capitalist agenda.”

So no worries. If this apology is the first step in the maturing of Julius Malema, we still have a ready supply of young politicians ready and able to say the next necessarily crass thing. And it is necessary. One can’t help thinking that a Julius Malema is crucial to the democratic process, and that if he didn’t exist, it would be necessary to invent him.

Chris Roper is the editor of M&G Online. Follow him on Twitter @chrisroperza

Chris Roper
Chris Roper

Chris Roper was editor-in-chief of the Mail & Guardian from July 2013 - July 2015.

Advertisting

Senior SANDF colonel involved in an alleged business scam

A senior soldier who is part of South Africa’s peacekeeping missions is accused by her colleagues of swindling them out of of hundreds of thousands of rands in a nonexistent business deal

AU pushes the frontiers of transitional justice

Now these important policy developments must be implemented

Mass store and job cuts at Massmart

Changed market conditions and an appalling economy has hit low end cash-and-carry outlets

Courts to guide land expropriation

Two bits of law need to be approved before a court can decide if land owners will be compensated
Advertising

Press Releases

New-style star accretion bursts dazzle astronomers

Associate Professor James O Chibueze and Dr SP van den Heever are part of an international team of astronomers studying the G358-MM1 high-mass protostar.

2020 risk outlook: Use GRC to build resilience

GRC activities can be used profitably to develop an integrated risk picture and response, says ContinuitySA.

MTN voted best mobile network

An independent report found MTN to be the best mobile network in SA in the fourth quarter of 2019.

Is your tertiary institution is accredited?

Rosebank College is an educational brand of The Independent Institute of Education, which is registered with the Department of Higher Education and Training.

Is your tertiary institution accredited?

Rosebank College is an educational brand of The Independent Institute of Education, which is registered with the Department of Higher Education and Training.

VUT chancellor, Dr Xolani Mkhwanazi, dies

The university conferred the degree of Doctor of Science Honoris Causa on Dr Xolani Mkhwanazi for his outstanding leadership contributions to maths and science education development.

Innovate4AMR now in second year

SA's Team pill-Alert aims to tackle antimicrobial resistance by implementing their strategic intervention that ensures patients comply with treatment.

Medical students present solution in Geneva

Kapil Narain and Mohamed Hoosen Suleman were selected to present their strategic intervention to tackle antimicrobial resistance to an international panel of experts.