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The long, slow exit of Julius Malema, the media’s secret darling

He’s in. He’s out. No, he’s in again. Out again. Half in, half out. Suspended, then rehabilitated, and now finally expelled.

Whether the political career of expelled African National Congress Youth League (ANCYL) president Julius Malema is over or not, much of the media will continue to provide surreptitious life support whenever it can. His ability to generate headlines and hence sales is just too enticing for Juju to be allowed to fade away without periodic attempts at resuscitation.

Over the past four years not only did Malema heap abuse and threats on settlers, boers, coolies, coconuts, and bastard journalists en masse, but he was also always happy to name names. Botswana president Ian Khama was a “foot stool of imperialism”; Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP) leader Mangosuthu Buthelezi was a “factory fault”; Democratic Alliance (DA) leader Helen Zille was a “cockroach” who “danced like a monkey”; DA parliamentary leader, Lindiwe Mazibuko, was the “white madam’s tea girl”; while no “normal man” would marry former Independent Democrat (ID) leader Patricia de Lille.

Malema was equally forthright about his supposed comrades in the tripartite alliance. His ANCYL rivals were told to voetsek; former president Thabo Mbeki was a “coward”; the South African Communist Party’s (SACP) Jeremy Cronin was a wannabe “white messiah”; Gauteng’s former premier Mbhazima Shilowa “didn’t know how to use a knife and fork until he joined the AN”’; minister Naledi Pandor had a “fake accent”; and President Jacob Zuma was a “dictator”.

Diverting stuff for the headline writers and rather than outrage, at times the press — giggling behind its hands and providing oxygen to bigotry rather than nurturing any real political debate — seemed to revel in the schadenfreude of it all. The temptation being all the more irresistible since the provocations came from the man whom Zuma had once punted as the country’s future president and on whose behalf Malema, in turn, promised to kill for.

On reflection, though, none of it was really as funny as it seemed. Now that the excitement is over — until Malema, like the Vampire Count, rises again from the grave — South Africans can tote up some of the cost of Malema’s fascist forays.

The Malema years hurt the ANC badly. In such a broad church that the organisation is, the challenge has always been to reconcile the widely differing views of how Nirvana is to be attained.

Nelson Mandela managed to do so because of his iconic stature within the party. The aloof Mbeki, brooked no contrarian views but lacking the reputation of Mandela ultimately alienated the ANC rank and file.

Malema, who had been Zuma’s crowbar to get rid of Mbeki, afterwards, became the president’s ever-ready truncheon with which to intimidate rivals. It was only when Malema foolishly turned on Zuma, that his reign of terror was brought to an end.

So Zuma has re-established leadership control, at least for now. But the ANC will be reeling from the realisation that a vociferous, aggressive minority almost succeeded in hijacking and holding to ransom the entire party. They will be determined not to let that happen again.

It was unfortunately not only the ANC that suffered. South Africa, too, was harmed and not only by the vulgar coarsening of political dialogue and in ethnic tensions, fear and loathing.

There was a hefty economic price to pay for perceptions of growing political uncertainty, in reaction to the ANCYL’s call for nationalisation of the mines and the redistribution of land without compensation. The Malema clique’s rhetoric — the racism, the abuse of “white bitch” journalists and of farmers who should be killed — have also seriously further tarnished the ANC government’s waning reputation in the outside world as tolerant and inclusive.

Malema’s legacy is however not all bad. The ease with which the young tenderpreneur millionaire was able to harness the anger of disaffected, unemployed and marginalised youth is a timely reminder to all — including the sensation-surfing media — that jobs must be created, education and skills must be improved, and socio-economic inequalities must be eradicated.


  • This Jaundiced Eye column appears in Weekend Argus, The Citizen, and Independent on Saturday. WSM is also a book reviewer for the Sunday Times and Business Day. Follow @TheJaundicedEye.


  1. Max Max 28 April 2012

    “Now that the excitement is over — until Malema, like the Vampire Count, rises again from the grave — South Africans can tote up some of the cost of Malema’s fascist forays.”
    More accurately:
    “Now that the excrement is over — until Malema, like the Vampire Coount, rises again from the grave — South Africans can tote up some of the cost of Malema’s fascist forays.”

  2. Benzo Benzo 28 April 2012

    “There was a hefty economic price to pay for perceptions of growing political uncertainty,……”

    Have any serious estimates been made about the damage in R&Cents? Mostly speculation? SA is not really on too many agenda’s when I check the foreign press.
    SA feels safe and warm in the protection of the Chinese economy.

    The SANRAL scandal wil do more damage to the image if SA as a business partner if payments to Austria fail or can only be paid when the State pension fund is bonded with the silent support of the Finance department. Money speaks louder than the words of an ANC rebel.

  3. thivha tshivhombedze munyai thivha tshivhombedze munyai 29 April 2012

    He is trying as much possible to stay on the news but this time around he won’t survive,its unfortunate he never know what he was doing or who he was representing instead he made himself a president maker nd when he saw it coming he organize that stupid economic freedom much to pta. He missed the point he was the worst ANCYL president ever.

  4. Nzou Nzou 29 April 2012

    Malema is going to run his campaign from the floor. He has the funds to do it. So anyone who thinks he has gone away, dream again. The back stbbing has hardly started. Watch Motlanthi

  5. beachcomber beachcomber 29 April 2012

    Economic damage?

    Apart from the general global pull-back in resources due to a slow- down in China, South African mining shares have performed dismally; with the Malema-like Mugabe finally grabbing 50% of Implala Platinum, the second largest platinum producer in the world.

    Make no mistake, this clown scared off many investors.

  6. Charlotte Charlotte 29 April 2012

    @ Max. Very clever! ‘Now that the excrement is over …’

    Just as WSM has displayed a memory board with some of Juju’s most insolent and offensive insults -. and in order for the media not to allow “Juju to fade away without periodic attempts at resuscitation” – they should organise a competition marking the best nick-names/ jokes/ cartoons/spoofs etc. accorded to this bullsh-tter over the years.

    My entry for pet-names is Mal-enema.

  7. Cheshire Cat Cheshire Cat 29 April 2012

    @ Benzo

    What I’m curious about, is who is paying for all Malema’s seemingly never-ending appeals, submissions and court appearances etc?

    Actually, when one compares it with all the money wasted and misappropriated and stolen by the ANC …

    Still, I’m wondering –

  8. MLH MLH 29 April 2012

    Please Guys, get over him.
    There is so much else (equally laughable) that needs bringing to the attention of the public by way of fraud, corruption and outright daylight robbery. If we ever hope to have profited from the JM hiccup/hiccough, we need to expose everything that less publicly uncouth politicians have been up to behind his smokescreen.
    I firmly believe that the Sanral debacle can be a turning point for SA.
    For the first time since 1994, all South Africans stood together in their disgust; although we will all somehow pay the price, we need to make it clear that this sort of debauchery is not acceptable and things must change.
    JZ and his accomplices should spend many sleepless nights between now and December…his usual use of unfilled promises must not work in his favour this time. Frankly, I’d like to see a revised budget within a month: revised to take into account cancellation of the Sanral maintenance contract, the pension fund horror, the bringing to book of all considered corrupt, all fraudulent dealings, cancellation of infrastructure projects that cannot immediately be afforded, cancellation of any increases above R5k/month in the public services and so forth.
    Gordhan & Co should make a sincere effort to fund all debt through existing taxes, wasting as little as possible along the way.

  9. Benzo Benzo 29 April 2012

    @MLH: “For the first time since 1994, all South Africans stood together in their disgust……”

    Agree, calling for ongoing (financial) support for OUTA as they have requested.
    On condition that they open their books to the public, legal fees a.o. made known as well as projects to spend it on.

    Free money corrupts. OUTA will be no exception.
    Call me a cynic if you want.

  10. Lyndall Beddy Lyndall Beddy 29 April 2012

    But for how long will Malema “have the funds”? How can he control the Youth Leagues’ bank accounts if he is suspended? And his own accounts, and all those associated with him, are under investigation by the taxman for tenderpreneurship.

    And rumoured patrons like Gadaffi and Mugabe are no longer in a position to help.

  11. Dave Harris Dave Harris 29 April 2012

    Even though Malema’s childish insults were zingers, they contained an element of truth at its core. btw. you can’t only finger Malema for the rise of gutter politics but our media mafia together with the DA leadership who regularly engage in the scorched earth strategy of character assassination. Your mean spirited blogs are another example.

    Nationalization is the only way to slow sown the plunder of our natural resources and as sure as sunrise, land redistribution is imminent. These are the uncomfortable truths Malema was brave enough to speak about on behalf of the landless millions impoverished by colonialism and apartheid’s grand theft.

    And yes, the media have already groomed him to be future president, this is just his time in exile. Silencing dissenting voices is never good, that one thing you should have learned from apartheid.

  12. bewilderbeast bewilderbeast 30 April 2012

    Malema is blunt, unsophisticated and crude. I much prefer that to the (SAME!) lies and promises told by his elders. They lie and insult as well as he does, but more subtly and with much about-turning when their words came to haunt them. It was instructive that Malema would promise the Freedom Charter, and get into trouble for doing so. My question to Jaundice is: Where from the criticism of the media? What should newspapers have done? Censor themselves? Not report on what he said? Twist it? What else? And if you have a way the media should have done it differently, then why?

  13. bewilderbeast bewilderbeast 30 April 2012

    @Dave Harris. This is the first time I have agreed with something you say! I believe you are right on all except one thing: While I agree we HAVE to slow down the plunder of our natural resources, I don’t think nationalization is the only way. Better use, fairer taxation, partnerships, worker participation, other less dramatic ways would work better, imo.

  14. Clear Cut Clear Cut 30 April 2012

    Let’s call a spade a spade. Malema was uneducated, rude and corrupt; a thief without any conscience. He used the poor. He consorted with Mugabe. To satisfy his megalomania for power and for making himself rich, he stopped at nothing:
    ‘nationalisation of mines’, ‘appropriation of land without payment’ – even declaring war on a neighbouring state – all cloaked under the nebulous and fallacious name
    ‘economic freedom’.
    What is most shameless and disgraceful, is that he preyed on the poor for personal gain.

    With nothing except a loutish mouth and a beret, he leaves the fold stinking rich. (not bad, for a few years of shouting obscenities and insults.)
    Neither is he ever likely pay or be held accountable for outstanding tax, fraud, corruption and law suits against him.

    How much did this unscrupulous travesty cost the tax-payer? It certainly will not be paid for by himself. How much did he cost the country? How much did he cost the poor? How much damage has he done with his fake promises and ruinous rhetoric?

    Let’s call a spade a spade. Good riddance to bad rubbish

  15. cyberdog cyberdog 30 April 2012

    The Big Question remains, what, or who is going to fill that void, and what will their agenda be ..

  16. Max Max 30 April 2012

    @Harris: Malema’s insults were childish. Your ideas are adolescent: You say the media deserves the middle finger too. You say the media are mafia. You say the media conspire like mafioso with the DA and assassinated Juju’s character. You say this blog is mean-spirited like all other WSM blogs, that they are all examples of mafia conspiracies and character assassinations. You say you agree with Malema that Nationalization is the only way to slow sown (sic) the plunder of our natural resources. ‘Forward to nationalization and expropriation without compensation forward’, you say. You claim that you and Malema are really the ones with access to THE TRUTH. You say that when (not if) Malema becomes PRESIDENT OF SOUTH AFRICA, it will be as a direct result of the power of the media. You say silencing dissenting voices is never good, that (sic) one thing WSM should have learned from apartheid – all this while your dissenting voice is given free space here, by the media. It’s as if you put your thumb to your nose when you see a WSM blog and blather out a little “so- weh”, all the while calling Malema childish and WSM mean-spirited. The irony is astonishing. Don’t you see it?

  17. ConCision ConCision 1 May 2012

    The Melody of the Malema Malady
    When the Mess that is Malema
    Meets Andrew Floyd Webber


    Don’t cry for me S.Afrikaners
    The truth is I never left you
    All through my wild days
    My bad existence
    I broke my promises
    Stole from a distance

    … And as for fortune and as for fame
    I always invited them in
    (Of course, I told the poor it was intended for them)
    But the whole world knew
    It was all I desired.
    … Yet even my ‘followers’ were fooled:
    There were no solutions
    To what I promised would be.

    Don’t cry for me S.Afrikaners….
    I really had lots of fun
    Although I’m dom, there’s one thing I know
    Bad publicity is better than none
    And with my big mouth and beret all part of the plot
    Look how much cash from illegal tenders I got!

    … And as for ‘the nationalisation of mines’
    And the ‘land grabs’ that I said there would be
    While you toy-toyed for ‘economic freedom’
    I got everything free.

    So cry for yourselves all you suckers
    You don’t have to cry for me
    Okay, I’ve been chucked out of the ANC
    But I’m richer than you could ever dream to be.

  18. Change Cometh Change Cometh 2 May 2012

    The last statement by WSM is relevant: “… the young tenderpreneur millionaire was able to harness the anger of disaffected, unemployed, marginalised youth … jobs must be created, education and skills improved and socio-economic inequalities, eradicated.”

    Yes, it is crucial that this be addressed.
    But it won’t be through the ANC – who are responsible for all the shocking deficiencies and failures in the country today (now including the debacle of SANRAL) as well as the travesty of Malema which must also lie firmly at their feet.

    Many of us recently had the privilege of hearing Professor Jonathan Jansen (Rector of UFS), speak of the failed education system under ANC control, how this could have been avoided and straightened..

    He could have said the same for any of the other failures under the ANC.
    Added to the misuse of money meant for resources and development, and the misuse of power, nepotism, maladministration, thereby placing the country in the horrific mess that it is, the ANC must take full credit for creating and nurturing the cancer that was Malema (No coincidence that ‘ANC’ appears in the word ‘cANCer’.)

    It is the people, the poor, the protesters and the loyalist ANC voters, who are now seeing how the ANC, using them purely for votes, have nailed them and failed them.

    As a strong unified civilian opposition presented itself against the Secrecy Bill and now SANRAL, a strong political opposition or coalition will be S.Africa’s…

  19. Change Cometh Change Cometh 2 May 2012

    … a strong political opposition or coalition will be S.Africa’s saving grace.

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