Opinionista Braam Hanekom 29 August 2013

The Malema group’s false start

The newfangled political project by Malema won’t go very far. Here’s why.

The idea of Malema leading a political party was welcomed by the media, and public at large, for one primary reason: entertainment.

No honest analyst will deny that the man is a celebrity, that he is funny, entertaining, unpredictable and unguided. We have been greatly amused by his remarks, his rudeness and his arrogance.

Julius Malema walks over sensitive issues, throws out shocking insults shamelessly, but mixes in enough half-truths and real issues to give news editors an excuse to use his quotes in the news. It is undeniable that many of his comments belong in the comic/entertainment sections, but his remarks seem to help newspapers sell.

Put simply, Malema has enabled reputable news media to use tabloid tactics to increase sales, while maintaining that they were covering news. His recent gathering of three or four celebrities and a few spin-doctors to form a group which aimed to gather disgruntled factionalists received the lion’s share of opposition political media coverage.

His prematurely announced group does, however, face the likelihood of being stillborn because it lacks internal democratic processes and any meaningful or consistent ideology.

Personality cults are not a new political phenomenon; the elevation of an individual to a more relevant status than their organisation can be seen in political parties across the world, from the Western Cape’s DA to the US-based “the rent is too damn high party”.

Media must be careful to identify what is newsworthy, therefore: should a personality wearing a purple suit or being bitten by a mouse really make the news?

The media’s fixation on celebrities in politics often fails to analyse the individual based on the way she or he lives their life, rather than what they say, because it is very easy to talk left and walk right.

Recently Helen Zille spoke about the need for women to fight for equality, whilst she is the only premier in South Africa presiding over an all-male MEC, which she hand-picked.

Julius Malema, talking about corruption, economic freedom and accountable governance, is equally hypocritical. When thinking about Julius Malema, the idea that “the personal is political” springs to mind; in other words, the way one lives one’s life is the most apt description of one’s beliefs. Malema and his personality cult have failed to show any evidence of living in a way that economically assists our people.

Now let us think about what the structure of the Malema group tells us about its goals. This party is militarised – with military ranks, appointed leadership and no internal democracy. Although this “strong” leadership structure and military association may be appealing to some, even politically “sexy”, what does it say about how they conduct affairs?

With no democratic structures, with no inclusion of the people on the ground, with none of the accountability mechanisms that democratic political parties provide – we can only conclude that is bogus structure or privately owned entity. How can a leadership be determined without an elective conference?

The leaders are, at best, self-appointed – Malema is the be-all and end-all of this group. In the ANC all our leaders are elected, all our policies democratically adopted and appointed structures (like the ANCYL NTT) do not proclaim to have been elected, but rather are known as an interim structures, appointed by the democratically elected NEC of the ANC through its internal democratic processes.

It is therefore no surprise that we are already observing a failed or allegedly delayed launch, divisions and resignations from this group. The group, which was initially a gathering point for the disgruntled, a group for those accused of tax evasion or corruption, the politically homeless, a failed group of tenderpreneurs and factionalists of an ANC league, has already failed. It has exposed itself as a platform for Julius Malema, rather than a political organisation of members.

The announcement of a self-appointed leadership and a (so-called) political party, before it was registered and prior to any elective conference or democratic or legitimate process of adopting party policies, is merely a false start.

To add to their woes, the Malema group has failed to contain its divisions and has already seen the resignation of at least one leadership figure. The resignation of the infamous “sushi king”, Kenny Kunene, is a serious blow to the budding political party.

The fact that Malema’s group is riddled with factionalism and disunity before its formation is disquieting – and suggests that the media coverage was personality-driven rather than based on an organisation of substance.

Their confused use of military language, their attempts to hijack policies, history, strikes and service delivery protests show us a media-hungry group without membership. If Malema had support himself, then he would launch his group in Limpopo, but even in Seshego his cult has no members.

It appears that the disintegration of the Malema group is imminent. If they manage to launch they will likely fail to last long enough to participate in elections. History will likely remember the EFF as a group of Malema praise-singers and cheerleaders. DM


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