“Stay calm and remember am human [sic],” said Floyd Shivambu. And so he should: his rise to prominence in South African politics has been overshadowed only by that of his boss Julius Malema, known affectionately as Juju. Floyd is Juju’s right hand man and spin doctor supreme; as spokesperson of the ANC Youth League, he has been a noisy defender of Malema’s views, and perhaps the architect of some of his more controversial stances. Recently he has started to receive a lot more of his own press from South African outlets who suspect that he is brains behind Malema’s meteoric and controversial rise to prominence. This attention has included an official complaint about his heavy-handed tactics towards the media.
It is tempting to dismiss both Malema and Floyd Shivambu as populist, ignorant buffoons; this is to ignore their remarkable achievements in becoming, from nothing, one of the best known South African politicians. Surely spin-doctoring at its very best, even if it was more Robert Mugabe than Alistair Campbell. However, it looks like Floyd and Malema may have have flown a bit too close to the sun. While Malema awaits the results of his own disciplinary action, Floyd has been brought back down to earth with news that the SA Communist Party (SACP) have suspended his membership.
This is, ostensibly, regarding inflammatory comments Floyd made about SACP stalwart Jeremy Cronin, calling his views “reactionary”; the details have yet to be confirmed. What is certain is that there is more to this story than meets the eye. The SACP may be trying to make a point to the ANC that it knows how to control its own members; this seems likely given the fractious relationship between the two groups currently. Alternatively, this may be the first step in a strategy to pick off Malema’s inner circle, effectively knobbling Malema, and perhaps his suspension will be next. Either way, it will be interesting to see how close Malema sticks with Floyd; and whether he will be quite as exciting without him.