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TRAINSPOTTER: Coffins and court cases – welcome to Ma...

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South Africa, Politics

TRAINSPOTTER: Coffins and court cases – welcome to Malema’s next decade

Julius Malema has a plan. It’s way better than yours. By RICHARD POPLAK.

You’ve probably heard of Willem Oosthuizen and Theo Martins. They’re the two safari-suit-clad cretins who have become South Africa’s latest social media sensations. Last week, a video appeared online, depicting a sausage-fingered heavy shoving a black man named Victor Rethabile Mlotshwa into a coffin. The clip, seemingly culled from Verwoerd-era SABC archival footage, was viewed wearily by an exhausted nation. I say “exhausted” because a) Willem and Theo are sociopathic assholes who belong in an underwater maximum security prison guarded by an enraged Aquaman, but are, sadly, by no means anomalies, b) over-sharing the clip would unnecessarily compound Mlotshwa’s misery, and c) national/global racist fulminations/actions are so commonplace that we’ve become too weak to click on the appropriately outraged emoji.

Politics, however, is the art of loudly clicking on the appropriately outraged emoji. Our representatives in Parliament have fallen over themselves in condemning the work of men so violent and hateful they’ll probably be drafted into Donald J. Trump’s security team. In an attempt to properly own the story, the EFF decided that they would send members of their leadership to Oosthuizen ‘n Martin’s Wednesday court hearing in Middelburg, another in a busy run of 2016 legal-type appearances for the red-bereted radicals. Like most of their recent flirtations with the judiciary, the hearing was transformed into a campaign event: “Vote EFF” placards were waved by a large crowd as National Spokesperson Mbuyiseni Ndlozi took to the makeshift podium, denouncing both the idiots inside the courtroom, and the social milieu that barfed them into the universe.

But wait – a campaign event for what, exactly?

It’s been an interesting year. It’s been an even more interesting one for the EFF. It began with the appropriate free association fireworks in January, when the Commander-in-Chief, still flush with Christmas cheer, invited the press into his Braamfontein lair. Shortly after our arrival, he kicked the Gupta Family out of the country. Several new hashtags were born; the term “Zupta” was coined.

The Guptas, they must leave – with immediate effect,” growled Malema.

And verily, they did. (Sort of.)

Barely a week later, the party found itself back at war with President Jacob Zuma at the annual State of the Nation slugfest, where Malema and Company were once again ejected from Parliament during a short but spirited heavyweight bout. Meanwhile, having the previous year filed papers in the Constitutional Court in a bid to force Zuma to pay back the Nkandla money, a hearing to that effect loomed in early February. Zuma and his advisers blinked, and his counsel recommended that the Constitutional Court should appoint the auditor-general and minister of finance to assess how much he should chip in for the extravagant upgrades to his homestead. The EFF conducted a Johannesburg-wide “We’re Awesome!” street party, and later that afternoon government lawyers mangled their arguments to such an extent that they basically impaled themselves on a bunch of law books. It was a career-crowning win for Malema and company.

It was another in an endless series of humiliating losses for Zuma. But nowhere near as humiliating as what came next.

Date: 31 March. Setting: Constitutional Court. Context: one of the most consequential moments in post-apartheid history, when Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogeong and a full bench ruled that the President and the National Assembly acted in contempt of the Constitution with regard to the Nkandla matter.

Minutes thereafter, Jacob Zuma tendered his resignation.

Nope.

Which is why the EFF furiously worked their way towards the local government elections campaign, diligently building structures in the most wayward of peri-urban wastelands and dust-blown rural villages. Would they double the six percent of the national vote they earned during the general elections of 2014? Triple it? Blow through 100% and claim Zimbabwe and Botswana?

As it turned out, they would barely creep past the 9% COPE claimed in 2009 national elections, a fact that served as a wake-up call to the Central Command Team, and suggested that the party’s young, enraged constituency, while very real, had hopped off democracy’s merry-go-round a long time ago. Nonetheless, their percentages in major metros allowed them outsized heft, and after negotiations with the ANC collapsed (as Malema made sure they would), they threw in with the Democratic Alliance in Tshwane and Johannesburg. Thusly, they reaped the win-win rewards associated with being the junior coalition partner in two cities that were, by no measurable means, hardly a cinch to govern.

***

Sure. But politicians are kinetic creatures, and if Malema wasn’t moving forward – if he was jammed at middling coalition-partner status for the next six decades of his busy life – he would perish from the sheer boringness of it all.

Slowly, a plan began to emerge.

Throughout this year, Malema and company didn’t exactly dial down the rhetoric on land expropriation, but they made sure to measure it carefully. After all, they were wooing lapsed ANC middle-class voters and DA fences-sitters, and until he conceded the municipal election campaign in August, Malema was playing to a much wider crowd. Yes, he threatened war against the ANC. Yup, he insisted that he wasn’t afraid of violence, and promised that the army – EFF people, to a man – would turn their guns on Zuma when civil war broke out. But this is about as controversial as a dentist recommending mint-flavoured toothpaste. It’s what dentists do.

After the municipal elections, the EFF went into a brief but furious hibernation. Were they quietly working away on fashioning a policy document that would explain their land expropriation plans? Would they parse out how this vast and handsome country would be nationalised? Would they let us know whether township shack dwellers would receive title deeds – hey, for that matter, if anyone would receive title deeds – and if not, how their radically transformed economy would benefit the poor, rather than those already embraced by Power?

The closest thing we’ve come to a detailed policy document is the EFF’s local election manifesto, which introduced a top-down socialist management style into a rigid Marxist system. Councillors would function as mini-CEOs, tasked with running abattoirs, fresh food markets and other co-op or collectivist institutions. That said, Deputy President Floyd Shivambu, the Marxist scholar who now has a free hand in shaping EFF policy, has yet to fully explicate the policy on which the EFF has branded itself: how is this land stuff going to work?

And then in September, the #FeesMustFall movement exploded anew. The EFF quietly worked away in the universities, providing bail money and offering fulsome support to young men like the University of the Witwatersrand’s Vuyani Pumbo, who steadily gained influence in the movement over his ANC contemporaries. Into this maelstrom, Malema dropped a mini-nuke, the mushroom cloud of which he knew his supporters would be too busy to gauge the full measure of:

When the ANC gets less than 50 percent, and needs the vote of the EFF to govern SA, we will tell them here are the votes, but we are collapsing the ANC and the EFF into one new organisation. We will find [a new] name and we do away with the ANC completely and its history and its legacy of succumbing to white supremacy.”

Now here, finally, was a goddamned plan. And what it did was free Malema from the necessity of pandering to an imagined broader electorate. And trust the South African idiot factory to offer him a platform: on November 7, Malema appeared in a Bloemfontein courtroom facing charges of violating the much beloved, apartheid-era Riotous Assemblies Act, after he called on EFF members to illegally occupy land back in December 2014.

He appeared somewhat inconvenienced by the whole spiel, but used the occasion to his advantage:

[Whites] found peaceful Africans here. They killed them. They slaughtered them like animals. We are not calling for the slaughtering of white people, at least for now. What we are calling for is the peaceful occupation of the land and we don’t owe anyone an apology for that. No white person is a rightful owner of the land here in SA and whole of the African continent.”

The proceedings have been postponed to December 7, so that Malema would be allowed to approach the Constitutional Court to have the Act deemed unconstitutional. But the following week, he was back at it, this time outside the Bloemfontein Magistrate’s Court. Again, Malema went hell for leather:

Why is the black nation suffering? Why is the ANC not doing anything about it? We will do something about it. We will fight for it. We will do everything in our power, whatever it takes, to collapse white supremacy and replace it with an equal society where there will not be black or white, there will be humanity. All of us, we will enjoy the fruits of our freedom.”

Along with Malema for the ride was Wits student leader Mcebo Dlamini – one-time Sisulu, current Hitler-fanboy, and an apparent regular at State Security Minister David Mahlobo’s Gupta-financed home. (Earlier this week, Mahlobo said that Dlamini had visited his house on two occasions, a statement he denied several days later in Parliament. Now, Mahlobo may have been deliberately trying to discredit Dlamini with a cheesy “misinformation campaign”, but Mahlobo is an idiot, and either way, it serves as a reminder of how wired into the power mainframe Dlamini happens to be.) The Hitler-loving student superstar was arrested towards the end of the academic year in what he (probably justly) describes as a “political ploy”; he was represented in part by EFF National Chairperson, Advocate Dali Mpofu, who last week won him bail. Major symbolism alert: Dlamini appeared in Bloemfontein in full ANC regalia. “I’m here to support the leader of the EFF because there is no free education without the land, these things go together,” he said. “We need the minerals on the ground, beneath and above, to fund the struggle of free education.”

You see what’s happening here, right?

So here’s how this shit it going to shake out: Malema is going to double down on the rhetoric, and triple down on the issue around which his whole persona has been branded: land. As the ANC Death Star continues to implode, and as the party careens towards its electoral conference next year – as divided as any organisation could ever be – Malema will continue to provide an entire generation of young, radicalised South Africans with a home. Regardless of who happens to lead the ANC going into the 2019 general elections, the outcome is obvious: the trends insist that the party will win just south of 50% of the vote, and will be so divided that no whip will be able to make its members vote in lockstep. The disintegration will require coalition partners to shore it up, and those partners will hold all of the negotiating power. In rolls the Trojan horse: Julius Sello Malema is Deputy President of the Republic in 2019, and President by 2024.

At the very latest.

I know what you’re thinking: lots can happen between now and then. Indeed. And if lots does happen, Malema will climb even faster.

After all, there’ll be plenty of idiots fanning the flames – many, many more social media racist blowouts to offer platforms for his plans. Life is full of surprises, but racist dumbos in South Africa are a certainty. Willem Oosthuizen and Theo Martins: they’re the constant. Julius Malema is banking on it, and nothing has ever proved him wrong.

What’s more, the prats who make up the rump of the ANC have no plan. They are literally waiting, gawp-mouthed, for Malema to walk into Luthuli House and steal their lunch. Malema has always bet on the fact that they’d be this weak, this feckless – his entire career has been premised on their uselessness. An entire ruling party comprised of people with no convictions, no ideology, no imagination, no morality, no shame.

When the kids look back, they’ll marvel at how easy it was – stealing a country from the racists, the technocrats, and the idiots who imagined that it was all ordained.

That’s how populism sinks us all. DM

Photo: Julius Malema, leader of the opposition party Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF), addresses supporters at the launch of the party’s local election manifesto in Soweto, near Johannesburg, South Africa, 30 April 2016. EPA/CORNELL TUKIRI

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