ANC's tolerance of Malema's racism a problem - FW de Klerk Foundation

Dave Steward asks why ANCYL president was cleared on his "whites are criminals" statement

The FW de Klerk Foundation has taken note of the decision of the ANC's National Disciplinary Committee to suspend Julius Malema for breaching various provisions of the ANC's constitution.

Mr Malema's suspension should not surprise anyone. Nobody in any organisation can alienate so many powerful factions so abrasively for so long without paying a price.

Whatever Malema's future may be the issues that he so aggressively articulates and the constituency that he claims to represent will not disappear.

One of the central challenges facing government - and indeed all South Africans - will be to restore some degree of hope to the millions of young - predominantly black - South Africans, whom Malema claims to represent. Our new society has failed them dismally: it has left most of them educationally crippled and 70% are unemployed.

All this makes them susceptible to the populist promises of demagogues. The nostrums that Malema prescribes are politically and economically illiterate but enormously appealing to these millions of young people subsisting on their siblings' children's allowances and their grannies' pensions.

The message is also fundamentally racist: "Look at the whites, the way they live. They stole all this from us and we must take it back. We must take back the land; we must take the companies on the Johannesburg Stock Exchange; we must nationalize the mines - all without compensation."

Perhaps the most disturbing aspect of Malema's demise was the fact that he was not found guilty of sewing racial dissension. The charge arose from his statement at a rally in Galishewe earlier this year when he had said, in President Zuma' presence, that whites are criminals who stole our land; that they should be treated as criminals and that their land should be seized without compensation.

He was cleared of the charge of fomenting racism, arising from this statement, because it was not proved on "balance of probabilities".

One wonders what aspect of Malema's Galishewe statement was ambiguous and what probabilities led the ANC's NDC to conclude that this was not blatant racism? What was the NDC saying about the ANC' commitment to non-racialism and what message was it sending to white South Africans?

Statement issued by Dave Steward: Executive Director of the Helen Suzman Foundation, November 11 2011

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