The Thin Line Separating Mugabe and Malema

By Saliem Fakir · 26 Jun 2008

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Malema's 'Kill for Zuma' slogan is filled with ironies. The very day he was giving his infamous speech on June 16th, Zuma followed by giving his own. Zuma castigated elements within the ANC Youth League for displays of what he regarded as unacceptable behaviour.

Zuma was referring to the chaotic state and ill discipline that prevailed at a National ANC Youth League Conference, the very conference Malema got elected as the new president.

Zuma also pointed to unruly behaviour at other forums, making in particular, reference to the knife attack on Western Cape party secretary, Mcebisi Skwatsha, during a meeting of the Boland region membership. A month earlier, an ANC meeting in the North West Province also descended into violence and disruptive behaviour.

Zuma's remarks on June 16th were stern: "We are not going to make the ANC a haven for hooligans and criminals. From now on ... we will work with all our structures to remove hooligans who are bent on bringing the ANC into disrepute".

However, what follows from the top echelons of the ANC leadership seems to fall on deaf ears at the branch level.

The ANC of then and the new set of ANC cadres, are marked by a generation gap and a certain style of politics that may not bode well for free and democratic debate.

The ANC is very concerned and struggling to deal with the fact that repeated statements of disavowal of such behaviour are only met with disregard.

This is as much as Gwede Mantashe, ANC Secretary General, admitted in an interview in the City Press. On the question of ill discipline, amongst the ranks, Mantashe recognised that it was a culture that needed to be stamped out. He remarked: "It becomes a culture over time. At this point we are dealing with incidents. And if we do not tamper with them as early as now, they will develop into a culture".

The week before Malema's call for arms, President Thabo Mbeki and Zuma released a joint letter to the City Press taking pains to impress on the readers and their supporters that there were no Zuma and Mbeki camps – all was well.

They noted: "Neither one of us leads any ANC camp. Neither one of us represents any ANC faction. Neither one of us holds opposed policy positions. Neither one of us is involved in a struggle to build a personal support base in the ANC and the nation, which would divide both".

The letter does not instil much confidence if elements within the ANC and its alliance partners continue to use the Mbeki and Zuma names as the basis of their factionalism. In the case of Zuma, it is more ominous as his supporters are brandishing his name for some unfinished revolution.

The Mbeki-Zuma letter did not get much attention in the press, presumably because Malema’s pronouncements took centre-stage the following week. There was an eruption of condemnation from other parties and some reprimands from the ANC, in particular, Kgalema Motlanthe the Deputy President of the ANC.

The Mbeki-Zuma letter sought, also, to paper over the perception that the ANC is rife with factionalism and reinforce the idea that the ANC represents diversity of views and affirms the importance of debate and tolerance of political difference. Differences in various ANC forums did not amount to disagreement and division but rather displays of passion in asserting opposing views.

Both Mbeki and Zuma emphasised that they will "continue to insist that these different opinions should be expressed in a disciplined, tolerant and peaceful manner, focused on advancing our revolutionary democratic outlook, and consistent with the Constitution, normal practices and traditions of the ANC. We admit that in some instances, we have failed to achieve this objective".

They too noted that recent ‘shameful’ and ‘violent disruptions’ undermined the democratic process and brought the ANC into disrepute both domestically and internationally.

Malema remains unapologetic insisting that he was misunderstood. He didn’t mean what he said. His was a metaphorical ‘kill’ against counter-revolutionaries and not a call for arms.

The Malema comment was followed by a similar comment made by COSATU secretary general on the occasion of the funeral of 2nd vice president of POPRCU, Pretty Nomhle Singonzo-Shuping, held on Saturday 21 June 2008. Vavi, too, was wrapped over the knuckles by the media.

Vavi, in response, issued a statement unapologetically explaining himself: "I went further to say yes, for one another and for our leaders we are prepared to lay down our lives! Yes for our revolution we are prepared to shoot and kill. I singled out Jacob Zuma to make an example. I said because Jacob Zuma is one of us and is one of our leaders, for him and for our revolution we are prepared to lay down our lives and for him we are prepared to shoot and kill".

The problem with the imagery of counter-revolutionary forces is that it is deliberately vague and allows almost anybody that is disagreeable or unlikeable to fit the label. In that sense it is dangerous and reckless. It sows confusion.

It is indeed, presumably, this very idea of acting against counter-revolutionary forces that was the basis that spurred Judge Hlophe, excitably, to go solo on behalf of the revolution.

In its name he saw no conflict in whispering into the ears of two Constitutional Judges that they should act in favour of Zuma. It was also on that basis he could so confidently tell Judge Chris Jafta that he is the last hope for Zuma and the movement behind him.

Hlophe claimed he had a mandate, which ANC secretary-general Gwede Mantashe dismissed as nonsense - as Hlophe was not a member of the ruling party's structures.

Hlophe also claimed he had privileged access to the National Intelligence Agency. The Minister of Intelligence, Kasrils, dismissed this as spurious. Hlophe’s case is still to be heard by the Judicial Services Commission. He may well have been acting without a mandate and using intrigue to bolster his paralegal ventures on behalf of the Zuma revolution.

If everybody can speak on behalf of Zuma and the revolution and make us all march against phantom counter-revolutionaries then who is in and who is out has no clear delineation.

These are unguided missiles aimed at undefined targets. In such a revolution, one only needs to declare an enemy and set up false effigies, like one declares a witch, without regard for justice.

Who Malema's and Vavi's counter-revolutionaries are, is still an enigma. Is it the Mbeki camp, big capital in South Africa, liberals - who exactly are they talking about? Their fingers wag wildly in the air without clear suspects.

Robert Mugabe is using this very language in stonewalling and stifling the democratic process in Zimbabwe and blocking, through the manipulation of the law and the constitution, the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) from gaining power.

The very undemocratic practices in Zimbabwe that COSATU and the SACP have been at the forefront of condemning.

Lose and reckless comments contribute to the culture of intolerance that the Mbeki-Zuma letter have been seeking to avoid and warn of its repercussions for the ANC's culture of democracy and its standing.

The ANC and the Alliance partners have a much richer and diverse history of democracy than any political party in the country.

Malema's and Vavi's comments are too near to the culture and antics of dictators and fascists. This is the language that justifies intolerance and undermines democracy - both for others and for themselves.

It, also in the long-term, endangers the hard-won bargain of the ANC and the Alliance: to be well-deserved guardians of democracy prevailing over justice on behalf of all peoples in South Africa.

Fakir is an independent writer based in Cape Town.

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520530 Verified user
25 Jun


Reality is often very shocking but when I viewed the statement made by Mr Malema on TV I interpreted it as a passionate statement of loyalty and commitment to Mr Zuma, similarly as the often heard and used phrases "I

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