Friday evening in Midrand saw Julius Malema consolidate his rule over his organisation, gaining an even stronger foothold to push his agenda within the ANC. And what a brave, remarkable, revolutionary and worrying agenda that is, starting with changing this country's Constitution.
For the last two years Cosatu and big business have tried everything they can to lower the rand. Such is the power of Julius Malema, that he may be able to do just that, all on his lonesome own.
He stood up at the end of the ANC Youth League’s national general council conference on Friday and declared that the property clause in the Constitution must be changed. The willing buyer, willing seller policy must be abandoned. Because “only foreigners have the money to buy the land”. There must be redistribution of land now. There must be redistribution of wealth now.
Not tomorrow. Now.
And for this to happen Malema is willing to part ways with some senior ANC people. He wants “strong leaders”. If “you are compromised, we don’t want you, we want strong men and women who can stand up to white monopoly capital. We don’t want people who keep reassuring the ugly Helen Zille that the Constitution won’t change”. The man does have a way with words, even if they are insults.
Then there’s Robert Mugabe. Malema wants the Zimbabwean president to step down, “never will we be in favour of permanent leadership”. He has a certain logic to it, his argument runs that if someone is a permanent leader a youth league is redundant because its members can never be national leaders. Beside all of that, Malema has said this before, but it is striking that it was Mugabe who had him feted like a rock star in Harare earlier this year. That was the trip Malema took that was probably the final straw that led President Jacob Zuma to start that disciplinary hearing.
When it comes to the alliance the Malema express is on a direct course to smash into the Vavi steamroller. Vavi wants the alliance to be the centre of power. Malema says the centre of power “is only the ANC”. Luthuli House to be exact. For him, it’s not even the Union Buildings, it’s the ANC and only the ANC. That is probably one issue that Malema and Gwede Mantashe will sort of agree on.
Youth League conferences always have a strange set of circumstances when reporting on them. This time, we were allowed back into the hall as Malema was asking delegates “say yes if you accept Lungisa’s apology”. They roared back the required word. So we know Lungisa apologised for something. We know he is still the deputy president of the League. But officially, no one will talk about it. League secretary general Vuyiswa Tulelo couldn’t confirm anything, “I cannot confirm anything, it’s an internal matter”. It really is like looking up at the sky and saying you can’t say what colour it is. It’s complete nonsense and reminds of the worst of the Mbeki years. ANC Youth League language would better be known as “newspeak”.
But Lungisa did apologise. Officially he was accused of not running the National Youth Development Agency properly. He’s its chairman. But it is obviously not about that, as Steve Ngobeni, the agency’s chief executive officer, was not under threat. Of course, it was about how Lungisa got on with Malema himself and the warning that he shouldn’t mess about with wanting the top job.
Lungisa is now a much-weakened figure. For him, it seems any ideas of bigger and better things within the Youth League are over. And Malema may have wanted all along to have a weakened deputy dependent on him for his political life.
The conference ended jubilantly. Malema has everything he wanted, all the resolutions he asked for and his power has been greatly enhanced.
But there’s still an air of paranoia around the whole thing. Your reporter was idly sitting with his bum in the concrete dust, his back to the locked glass door of the main hall, editing some voice reports on a laptop. Four rather large “security” men came up and very aggressively demanded to know what he was listening to. Presumably they thought your reporter had some kind of bugging device in the hall. As he pulled his earphones out of his laptop one of them angrily said “why did you pull that out”. Eventually they were allowed to listen and they went off in disgust.
They didn’t even say thanks, or sorry. They clearly believe they have a right to order ordinary citizens around. And they think they’re so important that someone would go to the trouble of bugging their conference. They’re not that powerful.
By Stephen Grootes
(Grootes is an Eyewitness News reporter)