Julius Malema has been a busy man. He’s been all over the place, speaking to disaffected people and convincing them that not only is he the only person willing to listen to them, but that he is personally going through the same trauma that they are. He has clearly been studying the best strategy ever written on how to mount a huge political comeback in South Africa, written by a certain Gedleyihlekisa Zuma, and is now applying it diligently.
On Monday, he made another visit to Nkaneng, near Marikana, to speak to a meeting of the striking Lonmin miners. Unlike his 18 August visit, the place was crawling with police after the government issued an order saying that illegal gatherings and carrying of dangerous weapons would not be tolerated. A few constables at the scene decided that Malema’s presence in the area was a security risk, and he was stopped from attending the meeting. No, scratch that: he was physically booted out of the area, and then escorted by helicopters till he was at least 10 kilometres away.
Then rumours of his imminent arrest began circulating furiously once again. Thursday is the day, apparently.
On Tuesday, Malema called a press conference in Sandton. What would he say? Would he declare this last week to be the beginning of his passion, before his inevitable end?
No, not really. He just wanted to make sure that the country got the message that he hadn’t been scared off his campaign by the way that the police manhandled him, and was more than prepared to continue.
Photo: As always, the conference by Julius Malema in Sandton, Johannesburg, was well attended. (Photo: Jordi Matas)
More than anything, the press conference was an opportunity for him to lay out a couple of choice conspiracy theories and personal vendetta claims.
He said that his black Mercedes Benz Vito Crewbus was targeted at Marikana on Monday. He approached in a four-car convoy, and the first two cars were allowed to pass. Then the cops said that they wanted to search his car. He agreed, and got out to let them search it, and began walking to the stadium where the meeting was being held. As soon as he did that, the police lost all interest in the vehicle and said that he couldn’t be in the area as it was “incitement to violence”. His entourage finally decided that they’d seen enough when members of the tactical response team showed up and apparently threatened to isolate and shoot Malema. They were barred from attending a public, sanctioned gathering for no reason, according to him.
“We know that there is an illegal, undeclared state of emergency in Marikana. That is a very dangerous one, because a legal state of emergency must end after 21 days. But this one can just go on,” he said.
“Jacob Zuma must explain to the parliament why the army was sent to Marikana.”
Malema slammed the ban on traditional weapons in the area, saying that Zuma himself would probably carry a knobkierie and spear when he gets married again in December. “So the police must raid him too,” he said, to laughter.
The possible arrest by the Hawks, as well as the order by the defence minister to have him banned from speaking to defence force soldiers a few days ago were proof that someone in government had it in for him, he said.
“We have it on good authority that there is an order for us to be got rid of,” he said. “There are a number of sources in the state security apparatus. We have lost confidence in the police so we won’t share that information with them. Otherwise we will be inviting our killers into our own homes. The lawyers are dealing with that.”
The people of the country should not be blind to the fact that Zuma was flouting the Constitution by curbing his rights, the expelled former ANC Youth League president said.
“Hate for Julius Malema should not blind you to a violation of the Constitution,” Malema said.
The whole point of holding a press conference just after the brush with the police, and dwelling on his persecution by the state – real or imagined – was to reinforce the message that he has been taking to all the areas where there has been unrest of late: namely that the unhappiness of those communities is his, too, since he is being persecuted and ill-treated like they are by the Zuma government.
He repeatedly tapped into union dissatisfaction at Marikana by railing against Cosatu-affiliate union leaders and party bosses who had called for his arrest. “No one is bringing a solution to Marikana except to say, ‘arrest Malema’. How will arresting me give the workers R12,500? If it does, then I’m happy to be arrested. But what we are seeing is the state cooperating with Lonmin. The state has taken the side of capital against the workers,” he said.
It was a ploy used to great effect by Zuma himself after he was cast into the wilderness in 2005 by Thabo Mbeki. Using the tactic of “your pain is my pain”, he knitted together a broad coalition of the wounded that eventually put him back in command of the ANC, and later the country.
Malema’s end-game is simpler: he wants back into the ANC. When asked what he would do should Kgalema Motlanthe manage to defeat Zuma at the party’s elective conference in December, he said that he would reapply for ANC membership in his branch in Seshego, Limpopo.
“My branch will accept me. They have been inviting me to attend meetings all along. If the ANC will not accept me, then we will go to court. Even rugby or cricket or golf clubs in these small dorpies that don’t want blacks can be sued for discriminating. So it will be the same in the ANC,” he said.
On Tuesday, the miners in Marikana accepted a 22% wage increase – some six weeks after the wildcat strike began. Perhaps it is just as well that the worst of the widespread strikes now is over, although resolutions at Bleskop and other areas weren’t in the offing yet. Malema’s plans make it clear what his particular goal is: he wants to get back into the ANC. What will happen to the people he’s galvanised and stoked to near-frenzy once he has achieved his goal is not hard to guess. DM
Main photo by Jordi Matas.
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