The Malema conundrum

The ANC was treating its youth league leniently over its threat to help bring about regime change in Botswana, political analysts said on Tuesday.

“The Botswana comments are a major embarrassment to our foreign policy. I expected more from the ANC,” said University of Johannesburg Centre for the Study of Democracy director Steven Friedman.

He had long believed that youth league president Julius Malema was under the protection of powerful politicians within the ANC, he said.

The party’s reaction to the latest ANCYL outburst showed that Malema probably still enjoyed that protection.

“If he is not forced to apologise at the very least, one could say he’s still being protected,” said Friedman.

In a statement on Monday, the ANC said it wanted to “totally reject and publicly rebuke” the ANCYL on its “extremely thoughtless and embarrassing” pronouncements on regime change in Botswana.

It described the league’s statement as “a total deviation and an affront to the ANC policies”. The league said on Sunday it intended setting up a team to help unite opposition forces in Botswana to oppose its government, which it called a security threat to Africa and a puppet of the United States.

Deflecting attention
Friedman said Malema’s comments on Botswana were a deliberate attempt to deflect attention from questions about his finances.

Last month City Press reported that Malema was the sole trustee of a secret family trust, registered in the name of his five-year-old son, which he allegedly used to finance his lavish lifestyle.

“I remain convinced that he doesn’t do the political thinking himself, and those doing it for him know this is a good idea to deflect attention,” Friedman said.

“Quite clearly that is the objective, but it doesn’t seem to be working that well this time around,” he said.

Friedman said that when Malema was under scrutiny over tenders in Limpopo he sang “dubul’ ibhunu” (shoot the boer), which removed attention from the reports—also in City Press.

“The whole saga about the song: That was no coincidence,” he said.

Centre for Politics and Research executive director Prince Mashele said the “crisis” for him was that while ANC leaders were speaking out against Malema, they were not doing enough to stop his “divisive and reckless” comments.

“He continues to damage the image of the ANC and no one is doing anything about it,” he said.

‘Subtle’ rebuke
Mashele said ANC leaders seemed to be making only “subtle” rebukes which were largely ineffective.

“There is no question about it that very many senior ANC leaders have long been fed-up with Malema, but frankly they don’t know what they can do with him,” he said.

While the ANC dithered on the Malema matter, the “legitimacy” and the “integrity” of the ANC continued to be eroded.

Mashele said Malema’s statements were generally divisive.

“I don’t think that when he makes such reckless statements, he is uniting society ...
his intent is uniting poor blacks against the rest of society. This is dangerous. This country is not going to be built only by the poor. We need messages that seek to unite,” he said.

On Tuesday, the ANCYL said it was “disappointed” that the ANC had publicly chastised it over the Botswana comments.

“In true principle of organisational democracy, which guide the ANC and its relationship to the ANCYL, public condemnation just do not happen, particularly on political issues that require discussions [sic],” spokesman Floyd Shivambu said in a statement.

He said ANC spokesperson Jackson Mthembu, who issued the ANC statement, should have discussed the matter with the ANCYL before publicly condemning it.

Shivambu said the ANC had never “shied away from progressive internationalism”.

This included associating with “progressive formations” around the world and opposing those whose values were contrary to those of the ANC.

“The ANC Youth League takes a practical programme of liberating the people of Botswana from imperialist dominance,” he said.

Shivambu said evidence showed that the Botswana government “openly embraced imperialism” and was a “potential security threat to the entire African continent”.

The ANCYL did not believe its position on Botswana was contrary to ANC policy.

Shivambu also took a swipe at Public Enterprise Minister Malusi Gigaba over his comments on the nationalisation of mines.

On Monday, Gigaba told an American Chamber of Commerce breakfast that the government was aware of the harm the debate on nationalisation was doing to South Africa’s image, but it would not implement unconstitutional measures.

Gigaba and Minerals and Energy Minister Susan Shabangu have spoken out in the past two days about the way the nationalisation debate was unfolding.

Malema and the league have been at the forefront of the push for nationalisation of the mines.

Friedman said there was a “constant jockeying” of opposing positions in the ANC and the various ministers’ comments on nationalisation were merely reflections of those diverse views. - Sapa

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