Paul Whelan argues why the former youth league leader should be allowed to register his new party.
Cape Town - Chester Missing, who needs no introduction from me, tweeted on Friday: “Give your boyfriend millions and you get a slap and then redeployed. Comment on Botswana and you get expelled.”
The famous puppet was referring, of course, to two sharply contrasting disciplinary actions taken by the ANC. The party has punished Dina Pule for an extravagant lifestyle with her lover at the taxpayers’ expense, by demoting her to a mere MP.
But it eventually expelled Julius Malema from the party altogether for proposing a little while back the overthrow of the legitimate government of Botswana (an assignment presumably to be undertaken at some time convenient to them by Malema and the band of brothers who have since those apprentice days matured into the Economic Freedom Fighters).
However, another issue more weighty than either of these transgressions seems to concern what are patronisingly referred to as “ordinary South Africans”. They have been astonished to see Sars publicly testifying against Malema for what appears to be tax evasion.
If readers’ letters to the newspapers and comments on the internet are anything to go by, many people are uncomprehending, if not outraged, that Malema has not already been tried and imprisoned for this, among a menu of other misdeeds, real or imagined.
The law’s delay aside, a cogent explanation is that it would make a martyr of him. All populist leaders and dictators need to appear as not only speaking for “the people”, but also as suffering for them; they feed and grow on anything that can be presented as persecution.
Students of Malema’s public speeches will have noted signs that he would not mind, might indeed welcome, being locked up for a little while in the undemanding conditions the political elite enjoy in South Africa.
He knows a spell in prison would be the making of him, fuelling the fires of publicity he relies on and enshrining his cause as nothing else could. In case he should be so lucky, he is now shrewdly positioned as commander-in-chief, an icon above the fray, ready and able to be sacrificed – and immortalised – while his EFF bravely soldier on. In short, it would be the worst thing the ANC could let happen.
Rather one day – we must hope soon – the leaders of the party will finally realise that, just as they could not patronise, mollify or discipline Malema when he was one of them, they cannot intimidate him now he is an outcast revolutionary with nothing to lose. The ANC should allow Malema to go ahead, launch his party and fight the 2014 elections freely and openly.
Malema and what he stands for can only be beaten at the ballot box – or not at all. Fear of the party failed; times have changed.
It is over to the South African voter now.
* Paul Whelan is a commentator. This article first appeared on his blog at paulwhelanwriting.blogspot.com.
** The views expressed here are not necessarily those of Independent Newspapers.