Tag Archives: Julius Malema

The Ambassador of Death goes 4th

Apologies everyone for the delay in blogging. Occasionally the real world takes over – it shouldn’t.

However, we can all be heartened by the news that Iran, on the same day that it started fueling its nuclear power plant, has unveiled a new long range drone bomber. Iran’s president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad – a man known for his colourful prose, if not for his subtlety – has called it “An Ambassador of Death”, a title which demonstrates a fundamental misunderstanding of an ambassador’s role. It may look like something off the set of an Austin Powers movie, but the most salient bit of information released about the Ambassador of Death is that he (it’s definitely a he) can go 620 miles with ease. No, that’s not enough to reach Israel from Iran, but it’s pretty close. And it’s more than enough to reach Israel from Lebanon.

Ahmadinejad’s been having a good few days. He also told Al-Jazeera that Israel was “too weak to face up to Iran militarily“, a comment which set off a firestorm of indignation within Israel. The thing is, the man may sounds crazy, but he’s probably right. Yes, we all know Israel has the technological capacity to do it, but I’m not sure they have the political capital. They spent most of that in Gaza. An unprovoked, premeditated attack on Iran – particularly its nuclear facilities – will create far more immediate problems than it will solve, not least amongst them war in southern Lebanon. Bibi will hold his guns for the time being.

Ahmadinejad is a fascinating politician. His off the wall, inflammatory comments often make him sound like a mad man, but he is anything but; he’s one of a new breed of politicians who have figured out that the crazier they sound, the more the world will hate them but – and this is crucial – the more they will appeal to their core audience, the people who form the basis of their power. Hugo Chavez is another; Julius Malema in South Africa; and even the Tea Party Republicans in the States. None of these people are crazy; they’re just canny politicians, doing what politicians do best – keeping themselves in power.

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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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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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“Stay calm and remember am human [sic]” – Malema’s spin doctor goes 4th

From right: Julius Malema, Floyd Shivambu, and BBC journalist aka "you bloody agent" at that infamous press conference in Zimbabwe

“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.

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