If Malema didn't exist would we have to invent him?

David Bullard on why the media's happy to supply Juju with the oxygen he needs to keep going

The Julius Malema circus just won't leave town

If Julius Malema didn't exist would it be necessary to invent him? It's a tough question because Juju is, without doubt, a class act. The ANC have done everything within their power to excommunicate and silence him and he's still very much with us. He teased them with comments that he was going farming in Limpopo after his expulsion but he clearly had no intention of vanishing  into obscurity. The Lonmin troubles were perfectly timed and allowed him to address miners, police, the military and anybody else who would listen.

Of course, we wouldn't know any of this were it not for the SA media and one cannot help thinking that it's largely thanks to our media that Malema is still very much with us. Having helped sell newspapers and fill radio news bulletins for years it must have come as a shock when it looked as though Malema would finally be leaving the political stage.

What on earth would the SA media have to report on? Let's face it, Julius Malema is every lazy journalist's dream story. They don't even have to chase the story because the story chases them. They know that all they have to do is turn up to the same venue as Juju and they'll have soundbites for days to come. Good scary unpredictable stuff which gives the whiteys the willies. In a shrinking newspaper market sensationalism is exactly what one needs.

It wouldn't surprise me in the least to learn that the newspaper groups met with Juju after his expulsion and persuaded him to keep performing just so they could sell newspapers. No...only joking on that one but the more I think about it the more plausible it seems. Desperate times call for desperate measures and there are few more desperate than newspaper editors these days.

So Juju is in with a chance of being voted newsmaker of the year once again by the National Press Club and the media are happy to supply him with as much oxygen as he needs to keep going. They know that no Juju will mean they have to search around for something else that will sell papers and that's such an effort.

The latest episode of the ongoing Juju saga is that he has been arrested and will be facing various charges related to the non payment of a vast amount of tax to SARS. The revenue boys claim that he owes them R16 mln which is a lot more than most Juju supporters could hope to earn in several lifetimes. This is wonderful stuff for speculation and guesswork with a dash of human interest thrown in for good measure.

Fortunately the average Juju supporter isn't handy with a pocket calculator and will not lose sleep worrying how a man who claims to represent the poor can have acquired so much money in such a short time. Obviously the ANC Youth League pay well. Mind you, since most of the electorate have been royally rogered by the ANC for the past 18 years and have yet to use the ballot box to complain one must assume that being taken for a ride is all part of the fun of being a card carrying member of the ANC. 

The rank and file really don't seem to find anything odd in the fact that a champion of the poor can enjoy enormous wealth and live a life of luxury while shedding crocodile tears for those who live in shacks and work down mines. 

In fact so trusting are the Juju supporters that they are convinced that the timing of this case against Malema is nothing more than an embittered  and creaking ANC attempting to teach him who is the boss. So they were going to have an all night vigil earlier this week, presumably to pray that the written evidence against Malema will dissolve in a heavy rain storm. 

Just like the earlier charges against Jacob Zuma, these charges against the personable former youth league leader are nothing more than a Machiavellian attempt to derail a promising political career. In the fullness of time it will become apparent that Juju was just a very savvy businessman and a generous donator to charities for the needy.  In the end everything will come right and Juju will emerge cleansed of all taint, just as Jacob Zuma did a few weeks before the last election.

However, while that still has to happen we are running yet another appalling advertisement of our impending failed nation status for all the world to see. The miracle of a peaceful handover of power in 1994, when most pundits had written this country of, is long forgotten by the rest of the world. These days we are increasingly seen as just another thuggish, corrupt African basket case that couldn't really cope with the concept of democracy.

So while the impending Malema hearing may prop up the ailing media industry in this country, it will also further damage the image of Brand SA.  Liberals may say that the very fact that Malema has been made to answer to a court of law is evidence of our thriving democracy but the real question is can our courts be trusted?  Bearing in mind what has happened in the past, many would say no.

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