Tag Archives: ANC

Malema kisses Boer, goes 4th

Pink Moët: preferred drink of struggle heroes everywhere (Pic: Daily Maverick)

Of the many words that have been written about Julius Malema, not enough have been devoted to just how canny a political operator he is. After all, it’s been a tough few months for Julius Malema. First, a South African court banned the singing of “Kill the Boer”, the struggle song so beloved of Malema and his fellow struggle heroes in the ANC Youth League (what, Malema was only 13 in 1994?). Then, Malema was convicted of hate speech for saying that the woman who accused Jacob Zuma of rape had “a nice time”. He didn’t understand the conviction, or what the fuss was about – after all, the women had breakfast the next morning, so she must have enjoyed herself.

But now he’s back. In an elegantly simple move, he’s changed the lyrics of his favourite song to ”Kiss the Boer”, allowing him to keep on singing (watch it here). And if anyone complains, it’s all about reconciliation and inter-racial love. Alistair Campbell, watch and learn.

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Israel goes 4th in international waters

An estimated 19 people are dead. The world united in condemnation (of various degrees; my favourite is the “…regrets the loss of life” formulation, which says nothing at all really: the US, UN, UK and Tony Blair are all culprits). Israel’s really messed this one up. But what exactly did they think was going to happen? How could intercepting a ship full of angry activists, in international waters, not end badly? Surely someone could foresee this.

So: has the famous Israeli PR machine lost the plot? Or, is a more cunning strategy at play here? For the answer to this question, one only needs to look at how Israel usually handles confrontation; that is, how it deals with the Palestinians.

Israeli behaviour toward the Palestinians often appears contradictory. On the one hand, Israel condemned and punished radical groups like Hamas, while on the other Israel’s overt, unnecessary aggression in the Palestinian territories encouraged Hamas’s existence. A minor but illustrative example: every Friday, a group of Palestinians, Israelis and internationals gather outside the mosque of the small West Bank Palestinian village of Bil’in. They’re here with banners and slogans, to protest the incursion of the security wall into traditional village farmland. A disjointed march to the fence ensues, where Israeli troops wait, armed with tear gas, noise machines, rubber bullets and, on occasion, raw sewage. These weapons, in varying combinations, are deployed every week to disperse the protest, despite the fact that the protest is completely peaceful (bar a few poorly-aimed stones). Such a disproportionate response leaves protestors more bitter and angry than when they began; it is a response designed to drive people further away from the middle ground, to make people less amenable to peaceful, moderate solutions.

This template is repeated in almost all of Israel’s actions in Palestine, from the aggressive settlement expansion policy to the alleged war crimes committed in the 2009 war on Gaza, with each overly aggressive reaction pushing more people away from compromise into the arms of radical groups such as Hamas. In other words, Israel’s actions and reactions help to create the very radical groups which it claims to despise.

This much is an observable conclusion, and not particularly revelatory; what is more interesting is the motivation for this strategy of radicalisation. Underpinning it is a truth which is whispered but rarely vocalised: that Israel is happy with the status quo. That Israel – with all the land, all the prosperity, and now with increasingly effective security – sees peace as bringing not benefits but concessions, concessions which pose a much more serious threat to the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the Israeli state than do Hamas or Islamic Jihad. Imagine a Palestine united under a peaceful, moderate and forgiving political party; the international pressure on Israel to strike a deal and to make real concessions would be near irresistible. However, a fractured Palestinian opposition, with the radical, militant and terrorist Hamas in the ascendancy is easy to ignore; indeed, under the rubric of the war of terrorism, Israel is actively encouraged to ignore such groups. By pushing Palestinians towards radicalism, Israel is carefully ensuring that there is no partner on the Palestinian side with whom it must strike some kind of meaningful bargain.

This tactic isn’t new. The apartheid government in South Africa employed it to great effect, pushing the ANC from a relatively peaceful and moderate opposition party to a fully-fledged militant organisation; a move which allowed the ANC and its members to be demonised, a key factor in securing the continued support from white South Africans and the international community for apartheid’s racist policies.

And this is the policy that Israel tried to enact today in the seas (just) outside Israel. Board the boats; use some violence; pin it on Al-Qaeda and Hamas links; and push otherwise moderate, peaceful protestors further away from the middle ground, making them even less of a threat. But Israel has – perhaps fatally – misjudged the international mood, and does not realise that they have turned into the bad guys. And far from pushing opponents away from the middle ground, they have just pushed themselves away from the middle ground, and are increasingly seen as stubborn, selfish and abusive.

What has worked for so long against the Palestinians will not work against the whole world. Israel’s misjudged this one, and it is only a matter of time before they will pay the price in the form of serious political concessions, be it lifting of the blockade or real talks with the Palestinians (including Hamas).

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Youth leagues go 4th, especially in South Africa

Township toilets have their moment in the sun

I’ve never really understood youth leagues. A staple institution of of any socialist-leaning political parties, they always seem to be led by distinctly middle aged, generally paunchy men who have long left their youth behind them. Whether they are meant to represent all youth, and how exactly they get their mandate, is generally unclear; they generally just make a little bit of noise and are wheeled in whenever the real leadership needs to prove its not completely fuddy duddy and out of touch.

In South Africa, however, the African National Congress Youth League (ANCYL) has gone completely off script. Led by Julius Malema (and his spin doctor), they’ve launched themselves, full frontal, into political battles with just about everyone they can think of, including President Zuma himself (for which Malema recently received an official rap on the knuckles). And now it seems that Malema’s particular brand of loony populist politics is catching on with the lower cadres of the organisation.

The issue is toilets. Its been a long-running problem in a township outside Cape Town. About a year ago, the story broke that residents were being “forced to shit in full view of the public”, in the words of the ANCYL. A number of municipal toilets had been built, but without walls or roofs. Look at the picture – that’s a fully functional plain white toilet, open to the elements. The media were enraged. The ANC, and ANCYL, were enraged – but also secretlypleased. The ANC does not run the Western Cape, and the Democratic Alliance (DA) have been doing a pretty good job of it so far, so this was the first decent stick with which to beat the DA.

The story, of course, is more complicated than that. A source within the DA explained it to me. Turns out the DA had budgeted and planned to build a certain number of toilets, with enclosures and all. This would have served some of the township’s residents, but not the majority. The local community approached the local government and suggested that they instead install a functional toilet for every household, and leave it up to the houses to provide the shelter for it. This solution has provided far more people with access to sheltered plumbing. The toilets that have been left unsheltered are because the household in question cannot afford to put up its own enclosure.

Eventually, after much embarrassment to the DA, deserved or not, some aluminium shelters were installed on Monday. Still not good enough for the ANCYL – should have been concrete as far as they’re concerned. Within hours they had ripped down the aluminium shelters, and have come out with this statement, calling for Cape Town to be vandalised (how exactly this is an appropriate response is unclear):

“We are calling on all youth to do this [vandalise the city], especially those living in informal settlements. Our complaint is based on the reality that African people residing in Makhaza, Khayelitsha, are forced to shit in full view of the public. This satanic action by the city council is tantamount to gross human rights violations and undermines the people’s right for their dignity to be protected as stipulated in Section 10 of the Constitution.”

Oh dear. You have to admire them – it takes a lot of skill to mix swear words, religious adjectives and legal argument into one short statement. It doesn’t actually mean anything though, but it makes a great soundbite for the media (a trap into which this blog swiftly fell). But this sort of statement seems to be increasingly prevalent in South Africa’s political discourse. Where are all the sensible politicians? Governing, one hopes. Still, they need to keep an eye out, before this nonsense politics becomes the norm. Then the shit will really hit the fan, aluminium shelters notwithstanding.

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