Furious ANC youth leader Julius Malema kicked out a BBC reporter from a Johannesburg press conference accusing him of “white tendency” and calling him a “bastard”, “bloody agent” and “small boy”.
Malema occupies a notably controversial position in South Africa public and political life; having risen to prominence with his vociferous support for African National Congress president, and later President of South Africa Jacob Zuma, he has been described by both Zuma and the Premier of Limpopo Province as a potential “future leader” of South Africa, although less favourable portraits paint him as a “reckless populist”, a “demagogue” with the potential to destabilise South Africa and a “dangerous sociopath.”
Hold on, the President of South Africa sees him as a potential future leader and recognizes the fact that it was Malema’s youth league support that got him to power.
Malema recently announced that he would heed the ANC’s call for restraint and stop singing the apartheid era song that has the words “Shoot the Boer”, an incitement seen by some people as causing the recent murder of the white supremacist Eugene Terre’Blanche.
Should South Africa be worried about Malema’s popularity and influence? Yes. Should the BBC journalist have thought of a better comeback than, “I didn’t come here to be insulted.” Yes.
“We are in a serious economic struggle that seeks to redistribute the wealth to the people. This is what we need the ANC to champion,” said Malema. “Land reform in Zimbabwe has been very successful.” I’m not sure I follow you there Mr Malema. Perhaps you meant to say, “Land reform in Zimbabwe has been very successful if you are willing to ignore the fact that the country suffered complete economic collapse and hundreds of thousands starved. It was ravaged by racial violence and murder, which in turn ruined the country’s rich agriculture and drove more than three million Zimbabweans overseas – most to seek work in South Africa.” Malema said land seizures in South Africa should be “aggressive” and “militant” but he was not calling for violence.
The ANCYL was founded in 1944 by Nelson Mandela, Oliver Tambo and Walter Sisulu. How sad that it is now a destructive force in a country that is already dealing with major socio-economic problems and an alarming crime rate. A positive influence on the black majority is needed now more than ever. Julius Malema’s racist rhetoric is only serving to further damage international opinion and bring to the fore racial tension already simmering. Then again, perhaps this is what he wants. Out of the flames of revolution it is far easier to install autocratic rule. The warning signs are there, and Pro-Robert Mugabe talk from the mouth piece of the ANCYL is scary indeed.
Judging by Malema’s response to the BBC journalist it is also worrying that someone so prone to overreaction and aggression has carved out a very successful political career for himself. There was an alarmingly lack of intelligent response and maturity shown in the choice of words use to berrate the BBC journalist. President Zuma said recently, “People want us to shout him down. Why must we do that? … Even Madiba (former President Nelson Mandela), who is today an icon, was one of the most vocal youth league (leaders).” Mentioning Malema and Mandela in the same sentence is insulting. Fortunately, Malema has no influence on government policy, but for how long?