Independence you can trust
10 December 2016 07:00 (South Africa)
South Africa

Trainspotter: Malema's new war game – #PayBackThe Money meets #GuptasMustGo

  • Richard Poplak
    HEADSHOT_Rich-Poplak_orange.jpg
    Richard Poplak

    Richard Poplak was born and lives in Johannesburg, South Africa. He trained as a filmmaker and fine artist at Montreal’s Concordia University and has produced and directed numerous short films, music videos and commercials. Now a full-time writer, Richard is a senior contributor at South Africa’s leading news site, Daily Maverick, and a frequent contributor to publications all over the world. He is a member of Deca Stories, the international long-form non-fiction collective.

    His first book was the highly acclaimed Ja, No, Man: Growing Up White in Apartheid-Era South Africa (Penguin, 2007); his follow-up was entitled The Sheikh’s Batmobile: In Pursuit of American Pop-Culture in the Muslim World (Soft Skull, 2010). Poplak has also written the experimental journalistic graphic novel Kenk: A Graphic Portrait (Pop Sandbox, 2010). His election coverage from South Africa’s 2014 election, written under the nom de plume Hannibal Elector, was collected as Until Julius Comes: Adventures in the Political Jungle (Tafelberg, 2014).  Ja, No, Man was longlisted for the Alan Paton Non-Fiction prize, shortlisted for the University of Johannesburg Literary Award and voted one of the Top-10 books of 2007 by Now Magazine. Richard has won South Africa’s Media-24 Best Feature Writing Award and a National Magazine Award in Canada.

    Since 2010, Poplak has been travelling across Africa, seeking out the catalysts and characters behind the continent’s 21stcentury metamorphosis. The coming book, co-authored with Kevin Bloom, is called The Shift

  • South Africa
Photo: EFF leader Julius Malema speaks at a press conference ahead of the party's court challenge on President Jacob Zuma's Nkandla private residence and days before the president's state of the nation address. (Greg Nicolson)

Now that Jacob Zuma has agreed to pay back the money, what’s an opposition party to do? How about declare war on the President’s BFF’s, and everyone currently in their employ? Enter a new hash-tag into your Twitter feed: #GuptasMustGo. By RICHARD POPLAK.

This is the sort of story you have to start in medias res, mostly because the moment of impact defines everything that occurred before the explosion, and everything that followed after it. I need you to picture President and Commander in Chief of the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF), Julius Sello Malema, with a full compliment of his Central Command Teammates sitting alongside him in the cramped and heaving EFF press conference centre. I want you to imagine Malema healthfully robust with residual Christmas cheer, leaning forward in his seat, finger wagging. He has spoken quietly until now, reasonably explaining his party’s reaction to President Jacob’s Zuma’s smash-n-grab statement that he will pay back a portion of the money used for unnecessary upgrades to his Nkandla residence, and what this means for a big EFF march planned for 9 February, when the case was to heard at the Constitutional Court—with, it must be said, almost no possibility of a salutary outcome for Zuma and company.

It was all going so nicely. And then Malema kicked the Guptas out of South Africa.

“They must,” growled the CiC, “leave with immediate effect.”

Julius Malema and the EFF have now officially declared war against Jacob Zuma’s brothers from another mother—the unloved Gupta family, who have served as the president’s dogged paymasters for the past decade. The Guptas own a computer company, energy interests, a whole bunch of other stuff, and, most notably, a newspaper and TV station—the latter entities so slavishly loyal to Jacob Zuma’s ANC Inc. that they could very well be published by the Simpson’s Smithers in honour of his beloved Mr. Burns. I don’t need to go on about the Guptas—this newspaper did a pretty comprehensive number on them earlier this week—but let’s just say that they’re the perfect piñata. Smack them hard enough, and behold!—a shower of delectable, calorie-intensive corruption candy.

Malema and the EFF know this. Unlike other hash-tag addicted campaigns devoted to Zuma’s political demise, Malema and his band know their business. By focusing on #GuptasMustGo, they have zeroed in on the web of corruption and cowardice that has allowed the family to operate for so long and with such impunity. If #ZumaMustGo was tied to the unforgivably stupid assumption that the country would unite behind the firing of a finance minister, #GuptasMustGo presumes that naming the devil will allow the country to rally behind his vanquishing.

We’ll see how that works out. I’m guessing pretty well.

Before expelling the country’s true first family from the shores of this blessed land, Malema was clear about how the EFF viewed the Zuma pay back gambit. “The corrupt president of this country has made the admission that he is corrupt,” said the CiC.

All that was left to sort out was the settlement, the terms of which would likely include an insistence that the payer was granted a reasonable amount of time—say 90 days—to work out how much to pay or how to pay it to the payee, AKA the South African people.

“By e-wallet?” enquired Mr. Malema, only half jokingly. This, the EFF would not accept. “He thinks that by agreeing to pay, he will buy time,” said Malema. “No!” They would only allow a 60-day settlement period, which would land the payback deal squarely before the municipal elections rather than after them. In other words, intractable problems lie ahead for a semi-peaceful conclusion of the #PayBackTheMoney problemo.

“This is not a case between Zuma and the EFF,” added Malema, “but a case to protect the constitution of South Africa, and to protect Chapter 9 institutions.”

Which is when they dropped the Gupta bombshell.

War was summarily declared, and the first—and let it be said, easiest—front was established against the poor saps who work the EFF beat for the New Age newspaper and ANN7 TV channel, both of which are owned by the Guptas. “We don’t want to see ANN7 anywhere,” said Malema. “We don’t want to see the New Age anywhere. They’re the propaganda arm of a corrupt cartel. We are going for the enemy now. We cannot guarantee the safety of those working for the Guptas.”

I mean, seriously? Talk about a soft target. Talk about tin-pot revolutionaries. You wanna fight power in this country, go burn down Stellenbosch. Demonising the hacks that work for the Guptas is just weak.

“The Guptas are not in the media business,” explained Malema. “We are not going to allow South Africa to be sold for a plate of curry.”

And so, the play has become clear. The EFF will attack on two flanks leading into the State of the Nation Address on Thursday 11 February. They’ll demand the Guptas go down, and they’ll demand reasonable settlement terms leading into the constitutional court hearing. Meanwhile, Malema made it clear that unless the president—who has, he pointed out, now ipso facto admitted that he’s corrupt—gave a time and date for his resignation, the State of the Nation Address would not go ahead. (Sequel!)

The admission was but a blip on a long continuum of aggression. “Where is he going to get the money from,” asked Malema. “For God’s sake, he’s the president of this country, he must be transparent. Where’s he going to get the money from but this corrupt family?”

Détente? No, friends, not at all. A new war has broken out. The first victims are the journalists working for the weak-ass, pathetic, laughable Gupta media empire. There are lots of really bad-ass Mafioso in this country, many of them associates of the Guptas. But they have money in their pockets, which means they go unmentioned in tough-talking press conferences. Working people—kicked in the balls everywhere they go. ‘Tis South Africa, after all. DM

Photo: EFF leader Julius Malema speaks at a press conference ahead of the party's court challenge on President Jacob Zuma's Nkandla private residence and days before the president's state of the nation address. (Greg Nicolson)

  • Richard Poplak
    HEADSHOT_Rich-Poplak_orange.jpg
    Richard Poplak

    Richard Poplak was born and lives in Johannesburg, South Africa. He trained as a filmmaker and fine artist at Montreal’s Concordia University and has produced and directed numerous short films, music videos and commercials. Now a full-time writer, Richard is a senior contributor at South Africa’s leading news site, Daily Maverick, and a frequent contributor to publications all over the world. He is a member of Deca Stories, the international long-form non-fiction collective.

    His first book was the highly acclaimed Ja, No, Man: Growing Up White in Apartheid-Era South Africa (Penguin, 2007); his follow-up was entitled The Sheikh’s Batmobile: In Pursuit of American Pop-Culture in the Muslim World (Soft Skull, 2010). Poplak has also written the experimental journalistic graphic novel Kenk: A Graphic Portrait (Pop Sandbox, 2010). His election coverage from South Africa’s 2014 election, written under the nom de plume Hannibal Elector, was collected as Until Julius Comes: Adventures in the Political Jungle (Tafelberg, 2014).  Ja, No, Man was longlisted for the Alan Paton Non-Fiction prize, shortlisted for the University of Johannesburg Literary Award and voted one of the Top-10 books of 2007 by Now Magazine. Richard has won South Africa’s Media-24 Best Feature Writing Award and a National Magazine Award in Canada.

    Since 2010, Poplak has been travelling across Africa, seeking out the catalysts and characters behind the continent’s 21stcentury metamorphosis. The coming book, co-authored with Kevin Bloom, is called The Shift

  • South Africa

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