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Analysis: The Malema political Ponzi Scheme

Analysis: The Malema political Ponzi Scheme

The suspended ANCYL president Julius Malema is in the political fight of his life. It’s not just about his position in the league, but also about the type of political space he has carved out for himself. The fact that he is fast running out of enemies is going to be a big problem for him – which is why he may be setting up to make the most formidable enemy yet: the ANC president. By SIPHO HLONGWANE.

At the tail-end of the statement issued in the name of the ANC Youth League national executive committee, it alludes to what may form the basis of suspended ANCYL president Julius Malema’s platform, once he is kicked out of the party.

The Youth League claimed throughout the statement that they were the victim of a witch-hunt and a political purge, and they tie this in with their message of nationalisation of mines and land expropriation without compensation.

The statement ends off with a flourish: “The unfolding new struggle for economic freedom demands of us to stay resolute and unshaken. Our battle cry is ‘Unban the Youth League! Defend the Voice of the Voiceless!’”

What is very possibly happening here is that Malema is attempting to push ANC president Jacob Zuma into the same sort of space that the former president Thabo Mbeki found himself in before he was deposed at Polokwane. It will create the sort of enemy who, should he react, will keep him relevant even outside of ANC structures.

We all know how a Ponzi scheme operates. It is a business organisation that pays investors with their own money, or from the pockets of investors who come afterwards, rather than with any profits generated through business operations. The practice is illegal in most civilised countries.

The way Malema does politics may be considered a political Ponzi scheme. He carves out space through antagonism and opposition to someone or something, and had very rarely (if ever – we’re still trying to think of an example) articulated a neutral position that wasn’t somehow in contradiction to someone. Malema’s lifeline is political enemies, more and more of them, the more powerful the better. It is the only way he remains relevant. In his world, there is no equilibrium, no peace, no respect. Just a fight until the other side is destroyed.

From the word go, when he declared himself the winner of a highly-contested battle for the ANCYL leadership in 2008, he made an enemy. That person was the now-irrelevant Saki Mofokeng. He immediately began to alarm senior ANC leaders with his war talk. Within the tripartite alliance, he has attacked Cosatu general secretary Zwelinzima Vavi and communist party leader Blade Nzimande. He has brutally suppressed a Limpopo uprising in the form of the expulsion of ANCYL chairman in Limpopo Lehlogonolo Masoga.

Let’s not even mention his attacks on figures like Desmond Tutu, Mangosuthu Buthelezi, Helen Zille and Lindiwe Mazibuko.

His comments about the Africanist agenda being better taken care of by Mbeki than Zuma got him into trouble, at last, with the ANC.

War and enemies are Malema’s political oxygen. The end-result, which we are seeing now, was always coming. Sooner or later he would make the wrong gamble by taking on someone with real muscle (that would be ANC secretary general Gwede Mantashe and of course, McDaddy Zuma himself) and suffer the consequences. By all indications, this is what has been happening recently.

The gamble that Malema took when he chose a path that would put him at direct loggerheads with Zuma’s ANC kitchen cabinet is that there would be those within the ANC national executive committee who would want to see Zuma removed. Those people would support Malema purely for the purposes of bruising Zuma. He may have also banked on the less-than-stellar record of many ANC leaders. They can’t come at him with moralistic arguments when they’ve had run-ins with various authorities themselves, he would have thought.

But Malema miscalculated and now finds himself with no real backing. He forgot about the ANC’s deus ex machine – the investigations by SARS and the Hawks. Never mind being put out of the ANC – a long, protracted court case against him for corruption will reveal many things, few of which are likely not to taint him further.

But the suspended Juju seems concerned about a more basic problem. He has run out of enemies. Quite literally. The AfriForum case, at least as far as the public is concerned, is over. The ANCYL is his personal fiefdom. He’s pretty much reached saturation point as far as the general public is concerned.

Which is why he needs to make a big enemy of Jacob Zuma. The reaction from the party leadership so far has been to completely ignore Malema and let the process itself takes charge. Imagine that. Who woulda thunk?

By linking his trial before the NDC with his land expropriation of land and nationalisation of mines issues – and by extension, painting Mantashe and Zuma as opposed to these notions – he is trying to insert these top officials into the same space as Mbeki found himself in before he lost at Polokwane. Malema will go to branches and say: this president of yours had me booted out of the party because I dared to speak against white monopoly capital. He is now a mouthpiece for the enemy. He no longer has your interests at heart.

If that approach gains any sort of traction, Zuma would have to respond. And it would be game on.

With no counterfoil, no Batman to his Joker, Julius Malema is Nobody, like the place in Limpopo. DM



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