Say what you will about young Julius, at least you know where you stand with him. There is no nuance or double-speak about the man. He calls a spade a spade. His message is consistent and there are no confusing or confused signals. Not so his supposed seniors at Luthuli House, apparently. ANC secretary-general Gwede Mantashe is surprised that Indians, coloureds and whites were scared off from endorsing his party in the municipal elections. But why is that news to a leading figure of the ruling party? The ANC surely must have known that there would be consequences in letting Malema loose during the election campaign. Watching Julius in full flight, stirring the racial pot and uncontradicted by the party chiefs, one could assume the party calculated that winning its dependable African bedrock convincingly was more important than placating fickle minorities increasingly fearful of a rising tide of a crude, racially exclusive nationalism. If that meant going the populist route and rattling the racial cage, so be it, appeared to be the party view. Another way of seeing it is that Malema was the mouthpiece, giving voice to the private thoughts of some in his party who lacked the courage to speak for themselves. It appeared as if Malema, and chief government spokesman Jimmy Manyi before him, had been allowed to fire at will, freely stoking rancour, which would not have stood uncontested under Nelson Mandela's watch, and perhaps even Thabo Mbeki's. Think about it. Would President Mandela have held his peace in a public meeting while Malema generalised about a group of compatriots, telling star-struck supporters certain people were criminals who stole land from blacks, which had to be taken back without compensation? Somehow it's difficult to imagine Madiba allowing it, freedom of speech or not. It's true that in the colonial and apartheid periods African land was forcibly taken away for the benefit of the white community. But you can't just generalise and brand all whites thieves and talk loosely about confiscating private property without due process and compensation. And how does Malema's invective in 2011 help the ANC roll back the evils of the past, you may ask. Mantashe and company know better or should know better. If they don't, it says something about the state of their organisation. The ANC's failure to condemn racial bigotry in its ranks while still expecting minorities to vote for it is akin to expecting the remaining white farmers in Zimbabwe to root for President Robert Mugabe and his Zanu-PF.
It was a frenetic last few years for Durban, and the country, as we prepared to host the football World Cup last year. The tournament was the focus of all spheres of government and we were led to believe by some that it would be the panacea for all our social ills. It's now common cause that while the games provided a month-long party for the masses, and provided much-needed escapism, they were no cure. Durban's Olympic bid would have provided another distraction had the rug not been pulled from under the city's feet by the national government. The question is: what now for Durban? The new occupants of city hall have a huge challenge: what to do to focus the minds and energies of all the stakeholders to make Durban a success story. The new team might say their focus is on the ANC's five key priority delivery areas. But these priorities are what they should be focused on anyway. There is nothing special about them, nothing to attract the big investor who could create much-needed jobs and contribute to the rates base. While the priorities are important, what the city needs even more is inspired, competent leadership with a broad, long-term vision to make it the top-of-mind destination in this country. Let's hope the chosen have Let's it in them to make it happen.