Opinionista Ian Ollis 7 November 2014

Malema and Zuma are two sides of the same coin

Many South Africans wishing for the downfall of President Jacob Zuma and his self-seeking administration are delighted to watch the antics of Julius Malema and his Economic Freedom Fighters. But before getting carried away by his populist machinations, we should pause and consider what the real differences are between Jacob Zuma and Julius Malema, and whether support for him will not just change one massive problem for another.

Both leaders have been in and out of court to account for wealth they amassed through nefarious means. They will do anything in their power to remain politically relevant, whether it is selling the country to the highest bidder, destroying state institutions or choosing populism over pragmatism.

The longer one examines the building the president’s private homestead, which cost taxpayers R246-million, the more it becomes apparent, particularly if his past financial advisor’s statements are to be believed, that he spent in advance of having the funds to pay for his home.

It remains to be seen whether tax has been paid on any of the funds used for the construction at Nkandla. Certainly the tax on the part that the state paid for, the so called ‘security upgrades’, has not been paid.

Both leaders appear to have shadowy benefactors funding their extravagant lifestyles. It has widely been reported in the media that Zuma’s lavish way of life was funded by donations from a range of moguls including Vivian Reddy, Schabir Shaik and his Nkobi Group, arms deal companies, lawyers, family members and so on.

What did these backers receive in return? Many court proceedings, media revelations and encrypted faxes later, we are still none the wiser about the quid pro quos, but in life, it is said, there is no free lunch.

Malema is no different, albeit operating at a different level. He received a R1.2-million Range Rover sponsored for his use by one Matome Hlabioa, according to his statements in the media.

The relationship between Malema and On Point Engineering is yet to be clearly established, but it appears from media reports that Malema benefited from relationships with companies who in turn benefited from government contracts. Matters before the court will test these allegations.

Both leaders are quite happy to trample the rule of law or the Constitution and Bill of Rights in order to get ahead. Holding Zuma to account for 783 counts of corruption, before we even got to security upgrades at Nkandla, has taken the media, the entire political opposition, civil society institutions, the entire judicial system and more, and we are still a way off giving the president his day in court or having him agree to ‘pay back the money!’

Malema behaviour in parliament clearly indicates he believes the rules are there to be broken. Whenever he is asked to appear in court, he arranges crowds to gather in protest and he issues media statements and public challenges to the authorities to drop all charges because of vague references to smear campaigns and plots to get rid of him. (Where have we heard this before?)

When stopped at a roadblock in his BMW for speeding he notoriously shouted at the police officers at the scene, “Do you know who I am,” to which my colleague, Dianne Kohler Barnard, responded in Parliament, “Yes Julius, but do we care?” He is clearly happy to use his status, power and perceived stature to avoid being bound by the law or answering when he has transgressed it. He fails to acknowledge that the answer to a law-breaking president is not another law-breaking leader or even a law-breaking citizenry, both of which he subtly encourages, but an effective law enforcement administration and an effective and principled judiciary.

Remember Richard Nixon? Watergate was not answered by creating Watergate 2 to get back at Nixon. Legal means were used to deal with the Nixon and Reagan political scandals. This is exactly what should be done with Zuma. No vendettas. Just proper investigation and effective prosecution.

Zuma and Malema have another trait in common. Both use the public, and particularly the poor, while pretending to care deeply about them. Remember slogans such as “We will kill for Zuma?” Remember who came out to prevent Helen Zille from visiting Nkandla?

Finally, the pair has a tendency to use public institutions as if they were their personal fiefdoms in order to wage political and sometimes party political internal warfare. The ‘spy tapes’ indicate that even former President Thabo Mbeki was busy with this kind of behind the scenes manipulation of institutions too.

The key thing here is that if we get to a situation where public institutions are used by the likes of Zuma, Malema or even Mbeki, to run personal vendettas or to assist with wealth creation of leaders of political parties, South Africa will be significantly damaged as our institutions will no longer be able to effectively carry out their respective mandates.

The National Prosecuting Authority, the Hawks, the Public Protector, the South African Police Service (SAPS), the Independent Police Investigative Directive (IPID) and the like need to be able to do their work free of political manipulation.

Neither Malema nor Zuma have shown that they are deserving of our votes as South Africans, or that they should be trusted anywhere near our public institutions or levers of power.

These two are two sides of the same coin and need to be removed from public office if our democracy is to survive. Our fight in South Africa is not just for a particular policy platform, but for the very survival and growth of an independent, functional democracy, with equality before the law, freedom of the press and freedom of expression, with a justice and policing cluster of civil servants that are impartial, effective and operate within the law and in the interests of all South Africans.

Don’t be duped by these would-be ‘messiahs’. DM

Ian M Ollis is DA shadow minister of labour. (@ianollis)


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