How Malema overreached himself

Musa Xulu says the ANCYL president's basic lack of respect was his downfall

The ANC's National Appeals Committee is due to sit tomorrow to hear the deliberations and arguments on the merits and demerits of the appeal case in the suspension sanction or verdict that was passed against the ANCYL president, one Julius Sello Malema by the ANC's NDC (i.e. National Disciplinary Committee). The question is how did he get here so quickly though after recently being voted as one of the most influential youths in not only South Africa but the world at large even?

Julius had become so powerful within the ANC that even his fellow NEC members were nervous about crossing paths with him and Ministers alike did not want to be on his wrong side, lest they risk his tongue lashing. Some in the opposition politics and abroad duped him the real president of both this country and the ANC since, as they claimed, he "determined the policy direction" thereof.

Circumstances surrounding Julius' suspension have so poisoned the atmosphere within the ANC that a mere smell of it would intoxicate one. Well, well, how times have changed for young Julius whose fortunes have turned for the worst in a very short space of time such that he is now fighting for his political life.

This is a stark contrast to his professing that no one could tell him what to say, in a sense intimating that the leadership couldn't intimidate him with disciplinary processes. This champion of the nationalisation of mines policy has been a bad boy in more ways than one - speaking out of turn, being rude, confusing history and daring the leadership at times.

At the heart of his being suspended lies behind it being disrespectful and abrupt to some within the top 6 of the ANC which is the real reason that Julius has had a brush with the law as laid down through the constitution of the ANC. He for instance publicly endorsed Mugabe in what was construed as an attempt to embarrass Zuma who was mediating there. The Secretary General, Gwede Mantashe also publicly endorsed Zanu-PF and yet there was no similar sanction against him for his visit to Zimbabwe.

Julius has courted controversy from the time he took over the reins from then president and now current Minister of Sports, Fikile Mbalula in 2008. He rose to prominence when he declared that he was, "prepared to kill for Zuma" and later in that same year he claimed victory for "unseating a president without bloodshed". This was in reference to his annoyance with the persistent trumped up charges which were once levelled against President Zuma and of course the unfortunate recalling of former President Mbeki.

Unfortunate yes and that is what recalling Mbeki was and here I am using the benefit of hindsight because his powers could have been curtailed instead. Truth be told, Mbeki should never have been recalled, after all he only had 9 months left to go before the national elections in 2009. Of course I am not suggesting here that Mbeki didn't provoke a hostile sentiment towards him by trying to upstage the ANC president at times and the hidden hand that was revealed through the "spy tapes" recently.

Sadly, this set a bad precedent and since that "recalling", this method has been exploited to settle political scores even where it is not warranted and to reward cronyism. It seems that Julius likes to make and stay in the news though and too often he does so for all the wrong reasons hence he was awarded the joint newsmaker of the year for 2011.

In a desperate effort of doing so he has lost the plot and equally lost support from people who once believed in the ideals for which he stood and vehemently defended. The fact that he is rumoured to have called some within the leadership of the ANC "monkeys" is suggestive of that lunacy. My stance in support of some of the ideals e.g. nationalisation of key sectors (and not just mines) has not changed but in recent past he has become an embarrassment to the cause.

In the same way that I once believed that Zuma was a champion of the poor and would become the conduit for economic change to the marginalised majority of this country and I don't believe so anymore, so too do I view Malema in similar vein.

Both gentlemen have disappointed and thus far they have only economically emancipated themselves and their families whilst the masses in whose names they spoke are left impoverished. In business terms Malema can be regarded as a reputational risk and he has let the struggle for economic freedom in our lifetime down. He is thus no longer fit to continue to be this ideal's pre-eminent spokesperson. It also increasingly appears that Malema and his ANCYL colleagues in the NEC are intolerant of divergent views.

This intolerance is so rife, so much so that he has been purging provincial structures which are opposed to his iron fisted presidency in the ANCYL. We have seen him disband the youth league PECs in Eastern Cape, KwaZulu-Natal and Mpumalanga in what one can construe as decisions which sought to influence the direction and views of those provinces leading to the ANC's 53rd conference in Mangaung.

We have also heard that an ANCYL regional executive committee in his hometown, Polokwane has also been disbanded leading to that province's elective conference. This after that leadership didn't support Cassel Mathale for chairmanship in the recent ANC provincial conference which was marred by vote rigging. Once can only deduce that he is becoming desperate to stem dissent within the ranks of the ANC youth league.

Malema is committing the same mistake that Mbeki also committed in the ANC though by making too many enemies who eventually clamoured and revolted against his leadership style in Polokwane. In case Julius is wondering as to why he has fallen out of favour, here is the answer - it is the way he comes across to adults when he expresses his points. The bible says, "hlonipha uyihlo nonyoko ukuze izinsuku zakho zand'ezweni".

Malema however neither respects the ANC nor the ANCWL which in time will prove to be his undoing. Fikile Mbalula, for instance, once told former ANC president Mbeki on a one-on-one back in 2004 upon his being elected the ANC youth league president that they were not going to vote for him and that they wanted Zuma in 2007.

So peeved was Mbeki at the time that he at once stopped the R500K odd grant with which the mother body supported the upkeep of its youth wing at the time. Mbalula only ever disbanded one PEC structure of the ANCYL and by contrast Malema has silenced 3 provinces since his re-election last year. 

The major difference between Mbalula and Malema and why the former was not suspended was in how he (Mbalula) broke the news (any news at all really) or how he sharply raised points of disagreement with the leadership whereas Julius is rude.

Mbalula at the time, for instance, set an appointment with Mbeki and didn't first blurt it out in public. Mbalula didn't belittle Mbeki in public and yet he was still vociferous in voicing his displeasure about Mbeki and his dissatisfaction with what he believed the president was doing to Zuma in respect of the corruption charges. It is my considered view that had Julius been voicing and raising his policy disagreements in a respectful and principled manner, worthy of a national leader, he would not be in the position that he is in now. 

It would thus be disingenuous to suggest that the latest charges for which he was suspended were leveled at him only because of the succession debacle and his nationalisaton of mines utterances. Julius granted ammunition to his detractors when he knew very well that the daggers were already out for him after his trip to Zimbwabwe and exacerbated it by the ANCYL's storming of the stage at the NGC.

He played further into their hands when he stormed the meeting of the top 6 leadership whereas he had already been told that his meeting was cancelled. He must surely have known that he was a thorn in the behinds of those he clashed with and that they considered him an inconvenience to their lives.

Accordingly, he will only have himself to blame should Cyril Ramaphosa's committee uphold the NDC's sentence as unlikely as that would have been had he been respectful and cunning in raising matters of policy difference. On the other hand, because of disrespect, insolence and rudeness, the weak charges against him got him suspended. 

The lesson to be learnt from Julius and his fate is that it is not wise to overstate your importance to the cause or your invincibility in a political organisation or business. That sad, it is time that people in the ANC move beyond and must stop attaching individual names to a cause and rather choose the ANC ahead of their preferred leadership individuals as these divisions are catastrophic.

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