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Not long ago, Julius Malema was regarded as South Africa's political buffoon, an object of ridicule and a diversion from the real issues.
Things have changed. Today he is emerging as the personification of the ANC's threat to the Constitution. He articulates their racial nationalism; he uses hate speech to provoke racial conflict; he regards himself as above the law (whether in refusing to pay his speeding fines, evading tax or unjustly enriching himself through crony tenders). He epitomizes the metaphor of power abuse in Orwell's Animal Farm. He remains a buffoon, but he is no longer a diversion. He is the ANC Today.
How has this happened?
Some argue that he has received too much media attention. Every time he spews his bile at another target he revels in the public spotlight and his notoriety (or popularity) grows. Ignore him, some say, and he will go away.
This is fallacious logic. The reason for Julius Malema's rapid political rise through the ANC's ranks is the gaping leadership vacuum in that party. Politics, like nature, abhors a vacuum. While the charming Jacob Zuma appeases all the warring factions in his party, telling each what it wants to hear, Malema has taken the gap, to emerge as the ANC's dominant voice. It is the voice of rampant racial nationalism and populist demagoguery. He treats the rights guaranteed in our Constitution with complete contempt.
Julius Malema's hate speech (particularly his quoting the notorious song "kill the boers, they are rapists") has dominated political discourse this week. When asked to comment on Malema's tirades, President Zuma said: "I haven't said that he is right but I've said he has a right to raise issues. If we stop Malema you would say that apartheid has come back."
Defending our Constitution does not amount to bringing back apartheid. Quite the opposite. Our Constitution guarantees that we will never again experience the abuse of human rights that South Africans suffered under apartheid. It means that we are all guaranteed protection from the scourge of racism.
Through this absurd statement, President Zuma demonstrates yet again that he has no understanding of the meaning of our Constitution or of constitutionalism. That is why he has said that the ANC is more important than the Constitution. This is why he is turning all the independent institutions of the Constitution into extensions of the ANC. And that is why the ANC regards itself as above the law -- whether it is hate speech, or drunken driving, or tender fraud, or tax evasion. That is why the Scorpions were closed down for investigating corruption charges against ANC leaders; that is why the National Director of Public Prosecutions was fired when he refused to withdraw charges against Jacob Zuma; that is why the ANC has cynically manipulated a majority for itself on the Judicial Services Commission so that it can choose judges and protect Judge Hlophe from a fair investigation.
The prevailing attitude to the Constitution was summed up by Winnie Madikizela Mandela this week when she accused former President Mandela of betraying black people. "Mandela let us down. He agreed to a bad deal for blacks. Economically, we are still on the outside... Mandela went to prison as a young revolutionary, but look what came out...I cannot forgive him for going to receive the Nobel with his jailer de Klerk".
Winnie conveniently overlooks the fact that the alternative to a negotiated Constitution was a prolonged racial civil war which would have left South Africa a wasteland. But she is right when she says that black South Africans remain largely poor and dispossessed. Maybe she would like to voluntarily subject herself to a lifestyle audit?
The real reason that the ANC has failed to deliver the promised "better life for all" is that its policies have led to cronyism, corruption and the criminalization of the state, which has enriched the elite and failed the poor. Again, Malema personifies this. The bridges in Limpopo that his unregistered company built after winning tenders through crony deals, washed away within weeks. That is a symbol of service delivery under the ANC.
But we cannot expect Winnie Madikizela Mandela or Julius Malema to acknowledge this. They have every interest in retaining crony enrichment policies. That is why they have to shift the blame, and reintroduce the language of apartheid, categorizing individuals into racial groups as scapegoats to deflect attention from the ANC's failures. That is the new apartheid. And Jacob Zuma is facilitating it by giving Julius Malema free rein.
If President Zuma refuses to draw the line, someone must. We have.
My lawyers have written a letter to Julius Malema requiring him, by Wednesday 17th March, to withdraw his latest hate-speech, apologise for it, and undertake not to use hate-speech again. If he fails to do so we will interdict him in the Equality Court.
I have also written to President Zuma, pointing out that hate speech is unconstitutional, and asking him what he intends to do about it. I have said that his prevarication on Julius Malema suggests that he and the ANC endorse incitement to murder fellow South Africans.
The ANC today makes us appreciate all the more the quality of Nelson Mandela's leadership, which stands as a beacon of ethics and courage.
In 1993, when the firebrand former ANC Youth League Leader Peter Mokaba sang "kill the boer, kill the farmer" the ANC National Executive Committee, under Mandela's leadership, publicly rebuked him saying that the slogan undermined the policy of promoting racial reconciliation.
President Zuma has consciously modeled himself on President Mandela, but has missed his essence. This is the big test for Jacob Zuma: will he risk unpopularity with the ANC Youth League, as Nelson Mandela did, to defend our Constitution?
If he does not, we will not stand idly by. We will take action to turn things around while there is still time. If we do not, we will have colluded with the erosion of constitutional rights in South Africa. We will never do that.