Malema drums up support ahead of economic freedom march

By Carien Du Plessis 24 October 2011

It’s going to be a busy week for ANC Youth League leader Julius Malema, with his disciplinary hearing resuming on Wednesday and his organisation’s “economic freedom” marches happening on Thursday and Friday. Let’s hope his health holds, because he hasn’t exactly had a restful weekend either, CARIEN DU PLESSIS reports.

If President Jacob Zuma wanted to stage a PR coup d’état, he’d announce a Cabinet reshuffle this week. A thorough one, and he would time it for Thursday, to be more exact, so that he’d hog the headlines ahead of that pesky youth leader Julius Malema’s march to the Chamber of Mines and the JSE on that day.

There are a few ministers that need replacing, like the sick and lying minister of cooperative governance Sicelo Shiceka, and the downright embarrassing minister of public works Gwen Mahlangu-Nkabinde, while ministers like Fikile Mbalula (sport) and Tokyo Sexwale (housing) have become somewhat of a liability to their boss’s long-term plans because of their political ambitions.

And while Malema and his cohorts on Friday storm the Union Buildings, which Zuma can fortify with police on the pretext that new ministers have to be sworn in there, hacks will be praising Zuma (provided his reshuffle pleases them) and speculating about what a master chess player he is ahead of the ANC’s elective conference in Mangaung next year.

But it’s unlikely Zuma would take any steps, because he’s probably waiting for the outcome of the ANC Youth League leader’s disciplinary hearing, which resumes on Wednesday and concludes in roughly two weeks, and then he’ll probably have to consult and consider, by which time Mangaung would be upon us and over. Let’s hope this isn’t the case.

Malema himself has been running around inciting the poor and the dispossessed against the authorities, telling them to occupy their land and support his march. He’s been to Themb’elihle, Diepsloot, and on Sunday, he went to church (again) in Heidelberg. According to Sapa, he abandoned the last half of his ambitious Sunday programme, which included a visit to a community in Evaton and a shisa nyama (braai restaurant) in Sebokeng, due to “logistics”. Or maybe his “flu-like” symptoms returned, or alternatively people failed to turn up for the show.

Malema’s behaviour of late is a little reckless, like that of a man with nothing to lose, so we can only surmise that the ANC’s sticking to its intention to expel him, and that the “political solution” Malema was hoping for in the disciplinary, has not yet materialised.

On the one hand, the march – and his campaign in the days running up to it – is intended as a show of force to the ANC and a warning that, if he’s suspended, he’ll do a lot more of this. If the ANC finds a way to keep him in the party, he’ll be valuable in mobilising for the party ahead of the 2014 general elections.

Malema has also been going around politically blackmailing those who fear that he might have ulterior motives with this march, such as SACP general secretary (and higher education minister) Blade Nzimande, and police minister and ANC national executive committee member Nathi Mthethwa.

Malema told a crowd that ministers showed opposition to the march because they were afraid of losing their jobs if they supported it. “They know if they tell the truth they will be fired and lose their salaries,” he said. “We are not fighting anyone, but reviving our government’s consciousness that we need jobs, land, electricity, water… it has been proven that individuals can sell out. We want to put pressure on government that we want more,” he said.

By this he implied that their boss, Zuma, doesn’t approve of the march, and is perhaps not meant to because, well, the march will be taking a shot at his leadership. Even as Malema in Diepsloot denied that the march was aimed at toppling Zuma, the Sunday Independent reported that there were people at the rally who caried placards calling for the overthrow of Zuma’s government.

This suspected ulterior motive is also why Cosatu has been reluctant to support the march, even if the labour federation supports the stated objectives of job creation and poverty reduction.
Cosatu president S’dumo Dlamini said on Sunday morning that the League had requested a meeting with Cosatu, and a decision on how workers will support the march, will be taken then.
Metalworkers union Numsa has been less coy, saying it would support the march and encourage members to join in.

There are fears that the rally would degenerate into chaos as happened on the first day of Malema’s disciplinary at the end of August, when scores of young people stormed Luthuli House and threw stones and bottles at police and reporters. This caused shockwaves in the ANC, but not enough to discourage leaders like Sexwale, ANC stalwart Winnie Madikizela-Mandela and NEC member Tony Yengeni from taking Malema’s side, and testifying in his favour (Sexwale has already testified at the hearing, while the other two are expected to testify on Wednesday). If Malema indeed has nothing to lose, he might pull the violent chaos stunt again.

Some have grown so afraid of what is happening inside the ANC – and Malema and his ilk are playing no small part in this – that they want to see the Mangaung indaba postponed.
Veterans from the MK military association wrote a document saying the divisions have to be sorted out before a conference could be held, but the Zuma-supporting association officially distanced itself from this call.

Meanwhile the Young Communist League is to hold a job-creation conference in Midrand from Wednesday to Friday, which is expected to be addressed by Zuma himself and Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe. The YCL won’t be going to the march.

Even IFP leader Mangosuthu Buthelezi made a few observations about Malema in his weekly letter, which summarised the lessons the chief learnt while sick with exhaustion in his hospital bed. “When I was released from hospital after suffering from exhaustion, I went straight back to calling on South Africans to build our country, respect the rule of law and to keep fighting HIV/Aids,” Buthelezi said. “Malema has also emerged from hospital with a strong message,” but it’s a divisive one calling for land grabs (an issue which, incidentally, Afriforum is pursuing – it’s charging him with sedition for calling on people to occupy land).

Buthelezi said he found Malema’s behaviour unsurprising, seeing that the ANC was “laid back” when Malema hurled insults at him, as well as ministers. “The divisions within the ruling party grow with his every utterance,” he said. The party’s troubles too. DM

Read more:

  • Cosatu’s conundrum: to march with Malema or to leave a vacuum, in Daily Maverick

Photo: Greg Nicolson.


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