Is Malema untouchable?

9th April 2010 By: Denis Worrall

In the wake of right-wing leader Eugene Terre'Blanche's murder, itself obviously deeply regrettable, some seriously negative statements have been made regarding what is likely to happen in the country. By way therefore of a general comment, especially as far as our international recipients are concerned, the following:


* South Africa is not about to explode into a race war.

* Overseas tourists planning to visit South Africa have nothing to fear; and


* The African World Cup in South Africa is going to happen and is going to be a great success.

Political analyst Steven Friedman, whom we greatly respect, was quite right when he said that racial "paranoia" on both sides is responsible for fuelling the hysteria over the issue. "South Africa is not on the eve of a race war. What we see here is hysteria, where people see all kinds of monsters. In the ANC, leaders see white rebellion around the corner, and on the white side Julius Malema represents a rise of black demagoguery a la Zimbabwe."


Having said that however, Terre'Blanche's murder, Julius Malema's role generally and specifically in relation to the slogan or song he sings (kill the boer, kill the farmer), and the government's response to all this, do raise concern.


The Cape Times, in an editorial, attempted, quite mistakenly in my view, to draw a clear line between Malema and his song and Terre'Blanche's killing. I don't for a moment believe that the "kill the boer" slogan had anything to do with Terre'Blanche's murder. In other words, I don't believe that it was part of the killers' motivation.


But against the background of more than 3,000 farmers and farm-workers having been murdered since 1994, the song - first made public by another ANC Youth leader Peter Mokaba fourteen years ago - is provocative, intimidating, racist and deeply resented. In fact the High Court ruled ten-days ago that it is an incitement to murder. And that is how the vast majority of whites - not just Afrikaners and farmers - see it. Perhaps the most objectionable aspect of the song is the deep resentment and anger which it causes. Regrettably, that is not how the government sees it. Two days after Terre'Blanche's murder, the ANC issued instructions that the song was not to be sung by its members. It nonetheless, instead of taking the sensible option and riding with the Court decision banning the song altogether, the ANC has chosen to appeal the decision to a higher Court. Just imagine how controversial this is bound to be and what pressure it will put on the judiciary?


However, in my opinion much more worrying than Julius Malema's inflaming of race relations - and the Institute of Race Relations reports a deterioration in race relations over the last few weeks - is that Malema represents what almost looks like a determination to reassert the national liberation and "struggle" culture in South Africa. Modern states, particularly modern democratic societies, are well structured; procedures are clearly defined; and there is a clear sense of social order. Things don't happen haphazardly.


What one senses is that Malema and his friends are trying to put in place a new paradigm - a national liberation paradigm. This is reflected in Malema's deliberate and racially offensive emotional statements; and the ideological positions he has adopted over the past three months (calling for the nationalisation of mines, then the banks, then land, etc.). All of this is irrational without any basis in experience and knowledge and at extreme odds with current official policy and practice. In fact, its only relationship to reality is its connection to power and the masses.


Malema hinted at this on his recent visit to Harare and Robert Mugabe. Relevant here is what he said during his visit. He insisted that he was only going to meet with Mugabe's ZANU-PF party, on the basis that it was a "struggle" entity. He was not interested in meeting with the MDC and Morgan Tsvangirai because, as he put it "it was not part of the struggle". (Incidentally, by so openly identifying with Mugabe's ZANU-PF, he completely undercut President Zuma and the South African government's diplomatic efforts in bringing together the Zimbabwe parties.)


If, as Max du Preez says, Malema has the potential to go to the top, and is allowed - unchecked - to pursue this particular path, he will very quickly destroy the delicate racial, social, economic and political balance which presently exists and which reflects the Mandela and Mbeki legacy. And I say indirectly because, given its record, the ANC does not seem to have the backbone to stand up to even the threat of populism. And this is what, Moeletsi Mbeki, the former president's brother and an acutely intelligent person, said in a television interview two evenings ago is the biggest threat to our democracy and our constitution.

Denis Worrall