Julius Malema got married and that's a good thing

Julius Malema. (AFP)

Julius Malema. (AFP)

December in South Africa is a fine time. You get the best fruit of the year jostling for attention in your grocery aisles, from juicy watermelon wedges to soft mounds of nectarines and kiwis. If you’re lucky you get long summer days on the beach, a break from work, Christmas presents and, inevitably, you get weddings.

There’s nothing that can punctuate a December like a good wedding. How many were you invited to this year?

I’ve sometimes had a dry spell but this past December I had the privilege of landing invitations: from a traditional Tamil affair in Pietermaritzburg to a stylish Zulu wedding in Durban and a mash-up Shona/Ndebele celebration in Zimbabwe.
Unfortunately people tend to pick the same dates in December so one is forced to choose which friend you have to disappoint.

I ended up going to the Indian wedding, it being family, and the gorgeous multicultural wedding of two dear friends set against the backdrop of the sun setting over the Atlantic ocean in Cape Town.

But I didn’t quite crack a nod to the political wedding of the month. South Africa’s favourite political son, Julius Malema, adored and despised alike, got hitched a little over a week ago to Mantwa Matlala at a lavish ceremony in his native Seshego in Limpopo. I’m not sure if it was quite the political wedding of the year though, as another former ANC Youth League president, Home Affairs Minister Malusi Gigaba, had his own wedding bash early in 2014 – and it was on a similarly grand scale.

Masses at a distance
There’s the usual gossip that dogs such events, perhaps more so for politicians. Gigaba doesn’t have the best record when it comes to fidelity and Malema, for all his posturing at being one with the masses, kept said masses at a firm distance for his celebration. While Malema’s wedding took place in the streets of his and his bride’s childhood home like any typical African wedding, it didn’t feature the usual open invitation to the neighbourhood and the entire proceedings were hidden from view behind fences and security who turned unwanted guests – and journalists – away.

Malema kept things real, sporting simple but elegant outfits. But a few touches reported in the media, such as the convoy of luxury cars and a Saxon Hotel bridal shower bash, seemed at odds with the pro-poor policies of Malema’s party, the Economic Freedom Fighters. The EFF initially punted the idea that leaders and politicians live humble lives and eschew excessive wealth and symbols of materialism.

But one does not follow the EFF for anything as mundane as consistency. Theirs is the party of flash and pizazz – showy displays of power. Consistency probably ranks somewhere below office decor in their list of priorities.

Politics vs party
I do understand Malema’s desire to keep his wedding private and curb the number of guests, untraditional as it may seem. It does save costs. Plus he’s just come off the back of a messy election process within his party, which delivered him the top job but kept newspapers busy with one scandal after another. And he’s about to go into another dramatic year in Parliament, which the EFF has single-handedly made relevant again in their dogged pursuit of number one, our country’s problematic president, Jacob Zuma.

It’s rather surprising that he managed to squeeze in a wedding – it must have been hell to organise and I doubt he had much time to help his bride choose the rose pink colour scheme and table centre pieces.

Mastering marriage
What other travails await the newly-wedded Malemas? The first year is the hardest they say, particularly if one’s husband is leading a revolutionary movement and compelled to wear red overalls most of that time.

There’s the universal toothpaste war. There are two kinds of people in this world: those who squeeze their toothpaste tubes from the bottom like sane human beings and the terminally short-sighted kind who squeeze it from the top like there’s no tomorrow. Given Malema’s policy bent – free land for all right now and consequences be damned – I’m betting he’s the top-squeezing type.

Then there are the more serious issues of communication and conflict resolution: learning to fight well and resolve disagreements is half the battle. It can be absolute hell but really good for one’s character.

Remember those anger management classes ANC secretary general Gwede Mantashe instructed Malema to go to after he made international headlines for attacking a BBC journalist? Malema told the Mail & Guardian last year he never went on the course, and didn’t need it either, thank you very much.

Well, marriage may prove to be the ultimate anger management class for Malema.

Here’s to the newly-weds.

Verashni Pillay

Verashni Pillay

Verashni Pillay is the former editor-in-chief of the Mail & Guardian, and inaugural editor-in chief of Huffington Post South Africa. She has worked at various periods as senior reporter covering politics and general news, specialises in mediamanagement and relishes the task of putting together the right team to create compelling and principled journalism across multiple platforms.  Read more from Verashni Pillay

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