As Jacob Zuma (like a reincarnation of the Groot Krokodil) emerged from his long, silent bask below the surface following his electoral humiliation to face his first question session in Parliament, he endured the worst kind of lesson. “The pupil had outstripped the teacher.” CIC Julius Malema, slim, shining with health and as confident as a rock against a breeze, eviscerated the President, the Speaker, and his former party in a dazzling display of parliamentary dexterity and with the innate skill of the instinctive communicator.
Grind No. 1: Baleka Mbete, Speaker of the House. The woman who has let it be known that she would like to be the ANC’s first woman president has had her power base eroded in the simplest way. In every confrontation with Juju and his red beret army she has looked out of control, powerless, and defeated. Dressed to kill, she can only hunch forward, shouting vainly into the microphone as she attempts to bring a semblance of order to Parliament, and to protect the man who has protected her.
And the brilliance of this attack is that the Red Berets have now mastered parliamentary procedure completely, so that the cascade of “points of order” that rain down on Mbete’s coiffed head do not break any rules. They use repetition, with slight variations, to pile on the punches till their opponent is left hanging against the ropes. This week their message was “Mbete is a powerless puppet – unable to protect the man who gave her the job”. And when they were done, she looked weak, washed up and worn out.
Grind No. 2: Jacob Zuma, President of South Africa. The walking time bomb that is Jacob Zuma had half an hour of his presidency taken away from him on Tuesday as the Army of Red Ants swarmed all over him. He sat there trying to look cool and calm, chuckling occasionally, as they nipped away at his reputation and power. For 35 minutes he was not No 1, or the head of his party, he was just an ordinary South African, accused of being a criminal, helpless to answer and to defend himself.
Famously, Julius, when he was Jacob’s favourite son, once said, “I will kill for Jacob Zuma.” He has simply removed a prefix from the sentence – now it is, “I will kill Jacob Zuma”. And he doesn’t mean to do any physical harm to the Procreator-in-Chief – no, he is going to do the very worst thing that you can do to a politician, he is going to kill his reputation. Malema’s brilliant exit line, “We will wait outside until the criminal has finished speaking, and then we will come back into Parliament” condemned the President and placed the EFF exactly where they want to be – they are perceived as leaders of the army in the fight against corruption.
Grind No. 3: The ANC members sitting in Parliament. The ANC caucus has one over-riding tactic in Parliament, whether in defence or on the attack; they make so much noise that they disrupt whoever is trying to talk in Parliament.
So what does Malema do? He brilliantly employs a two-pronged strategy. First, the ANC fury and abuse crumble against his rock-like confidence; he knows that to react to them in any way means to give them the advantage of numbers. By staying certain and strong, he makes them look like children. At the same time, he calls them out for what they are doing. “These howlers can howl, there is nothing they can do. You are a group of howlers, the voters have rejected you….”
And then when the ANC try and play by parliamentary rules he bests them in an effortless way:
“Show me the rule – which rule says that I can’t say that? Yes! Follow it up – you must know the rules! … We don’t make any statement here which can be over-ruled by any court, because, before we make any statement, it is well researched, and within the confines of the Constitution. So you have never won any case against us in court, because you a group of people who can’t think!”
And so you get three-flavoured mince meat – Mbete, Zuma, and the ANC caucus relentlessly fed through the grinder until they land as a shapeless mass of dead meat ; structure-less, leaderless, and without form.
It was a political performance that could hardly be faulted. Powerful and pragmatic, more than 250 people (the majority, the President, the Speaker to his playthings) were reduced to his political toys. Malema is a wonder to watch.
But just let’s pray that is where he stays, savaging from the side-lines. Because when it comes to actual policy, administration and implantation – then the TV politician might well turn out to be acting in that definitive drama about ambition without principle, Macbeth. And we will realise that we have all been watching “a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing”. DM