ANC Youth League president Julius Malema and company have the ruling party exactly where they want it to be – i.e. they have got the ANC to mete out the harshest punishment possible. To their credit, I’m sure the ANC itself knows exactly where Malema wants it to be.
It has become clear that Malema never bargained on President Jacob Zuma asserting his authority and having him hauled in front of a disciplinary committee. Clearly, Malema didn’t understand the game of brinksmanship that Zuma had so mastered against former president Thabo Mbeki.
Malema seemed to have adopted the same modus operandi that Zuma employed in his fight against Mbeki but he missed one point: both Mbeki and Zuma seemed to know how far to push and when to back down.
Malema is simply a novice who thought he could cut and paste the Polokwane tactics into the Mangaung fight. What he didn’t bargain on was that Zuma would be emphatic in his response. Zuma has far more to lose than Mbeki had back in Polokwane. Mbeki was only fighting for Luthuli House while Zuma is fighting for both Luthuli House and the Union Buildings.
What makes Zuma even more dangerous is that there is always a chance that the fraud and corruption charges against him could be reinstated if he loses control of the party and the state. Malema and his backers don’t seem to have factored in those dynamics when they decided it was time Zuma was replaced. So when the response from Zuma became clearly devastating to the Malema-fronted campaign, the wheels started to come off. Backers started asking themselves if Malema was the right man to spearhead their campaign.
Malema is now left on his own with his ANCYL peers to fight off the Zuma onslaught. Remember that Zuma almost learnt the hard way that you don’t leave a dead snake lying around; you finish it off by burning it and scattering the ashes in the sea.
When it became apparent that Zuma would be taking no prisoners, the strategy was to force him to play his harshest hand when dealing with Malema and his peers, who then went on to spin such harsh actions against him as actions against the youth league as a whole. Zuma would appear to be fighting the youth league about its calls for nationalisation. Genius!
Only, it is too risky.
From the onset of the disciplinary process, the writing was on the wall for Julius. He stood no chance. So he had to get the national disciplinary committee (NDC) to mete out the harshest sanction. Hence the continuous barrage of insults hurled against Zuma and his supporters, and the NDC and its chairperson. Recently, we have seen ANCYL spokesperson Floyd Shivambu, who is charged with Malema, fire a salvo at national disciplinary committee of appeals (NDCA) chairperson, Cyril Ramaphosa.
All the threats to defy the ANC if Malema is expelled and the assertions that the youth league is ‘independent’ of the ANC are designed to force the ANC to act against the entire ANCYL NEC. We all view this as madness and ill-discipline by desperate individuals on their way out of the ANC. We couldn’t be more wrong.
This is a strategy, as I have said, designed to force the ANC to deal with them harshly so they appear as victims. Let us break this down. If Malema’s expulsion is upheld by Ramaphosa’s NDCA, then Malema can hope for a review by the ANC NEC but Zuma seems to have a firm grip on the NEC and Malema doesn’t seem to stand a chance. Most importantly, he has an option to have someone raise his issue from the floor at the national conference in Mangaung in December. That is where the bets are! He is hoping that he can keep his momentum going until then and then appeal to the emotions of the branch delegates at Mangaung to vote for him to be reinstated.
For Malema to appeal to those emotions, he has to appear the victim. He has to be paraded in Mangaung as a badly wounded “economic freedom fighter” who was expelled for articulating the “policies” of the youth league. The tricky part for him though is that his fight to remain in the ANC was never in the original plan to oust Zuma so he might lose backers who simply want to concentrate on ousting Zuma and ANC secretary general Gwede Mantashe, and replace them with Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe and sports minister Fikile Mbalula respectively.
Could the fight to keep Malema in the ANC be bigger than the fight to replace Zuma? I doubt it.