The Young Communist League used its national lekgotla this weekend to douse one fire and light another. The extinguisher: SACP general secretary Blade Nzimande’s call for insult laws to protect the president are just a misunderstood call for social cohesion. The match: Advocate Dali Mpofu is using the Marikana Commission of inquiry to benefit Julius Malema’s campaign for change. Both comments display the YCL’s undying support for Jacob Zuma’s second term. By GREG NICOLSON.
The Young Communist League’s national secretary, Buti Manamela, led a small media contingent on Sunday through a statement from the national committee. “We are concerned that the (Marikana) commission is only probing the death of the workers and the role of the trade unions. We are further concerned that Adv. Dali Mpofu has been maneuvering to reduce the commission to advance the interests of the so-called friends of the ANCYL instead of representing the bereaved families,” the statement reads.
The theory is simple. Mpofu represented Malema in his disciplinary hearing. Malema and many of the remaining Young Lions who supported him want President Zuma to be replaced at the ANC national elective conference in Mangaung. Mpofu now represents the 272 miners at the Marikana Commission who were arrested or injured. Mpofu, if he does his job right, will make the police and, in turn, the state, look bad. The state is led by Zuma, so Mpofu is therefore in alliance with his old buddy Julius and not the workers.
“If we look at the opening address of advocate Dali Mpofu’s argument he was basically saying the same things as the Friends of the Youth League when they went to address the workers at Marikana,” said Manamela. “That’s the first thing. The second thing is that the basis of his argument was targeted at essentially government. Statements such as it was the state versus the people, the police machinery versus the people, are part of the agenda that was advanced politically by the Friends of the Youth League.”
Manamela, no friend of the Youth League, added, “We think it is quite unfortunate that when people have lost their lives and people are expecting that justice comes out of this process we choose to play cheap political games.” Asked why Mpofu is being accused of supporting the Friends of the Youth League when making widespread comments, Manamela said, “There is obviously a tighter link.”
He wouldn’t comment on the relationship between Malema’s coterie of sidelined Young Lions and Mpofu, but it was clear the YCL is against anyone who might endanger the chances of Zuma, who they have publicly backed.
Manamela, however, said the YCL does not support calls for laws specifically protecting the dignity of the president from insults. “People can differ with me and you can insult me as you like, but disrespect, that is not acceptable,” said the head of the Communist Party in The Star last week. The proposal, following on from the same idea from the KwaZulu-Natal SACP, drew widespread criticism including from Cosatu.
“We did not discuss the issue of a law to protect the president from insults,” said Manamela. “Our view is that there are laws to protect the dignity of every South African which includes the constitution of the republic… We have engaged with the general secretary of the communist party and he has not in any way suggested there should be a law that protects the president.”
Manamela called on all South Africans to build a culture of respect, but discounted the idea of legally punishing those who insult the office of the presidency. He said Nzimande’s comments had been misunderstood and distorted by the media. The SACP boss, said Manamela, had indicated to the YCL he would like South Africa to move past expressions and commentary like Brett Murray’s The Spear and Jonathan Shapiro’s Rape of Lady Justice through dialogue like that seen in the Social Cohesion Summit.
The YCL’s rejection of the insult laws shows it has some common sense, even if it had to wait for much of the country to first condemn the idea. Its position on Dali Mpofu, however, questions that rationality.
If anything, the high-profile advocate is burdened with an enormous workload in a discipline that’s not his forte at the Marikana Commission. The commission is currently trying to ascertain whether the police were culpable in the events up to and on 16 August and it is to be expected that he criticises the state. Daily Maverick readers might be disappointed at his performance so far, but it was Mpofu who put his hand up and said he will represent the workers in the biggest commission since the TRC.
It is laughable of the YCL to accuse him of playing cheap political games at the expense of the families involved. Distracted by Mangaung and shackled to President Zuma, the SACP and YCL have shown scant regard for workers during the most widespread industrial action in decades. Instead of aligning themselves with, or trying to recruit, workers who are looking for socialist alternatives, they sought to protect Zuma from criticism.
Mpofu represents 272 injured and arrested miners, while his colleagues are trying to grapple with almost 50 deaths; the effectiveness of Marikana Commission is increasingly viewed with scepticism while Mpofu is largely unpaid for his involvement. Meanwhile the YCL is spreading conspiracy theories about the Friends of the Youth League.
Cheap political games? Conspiracy? Whose? DM
Photo: National Secretary Buti Matamela (right) and Gauteng Provincial Secretary Alex Mashilo speak after the YCL national lekgotla. (Greg Nicolson)