LIKE Julius Caesar, Julius Malema failed to heed the warnings about his demise. On the day of his assassination, Caesar was warned by a soothsayer that he should “beware the Ides of March” (March 15, the day he would be killed). Caesar ignored the warning and was killed by a group of assassins who included his close friend, Brutus.
As conspirators pierced him with their knives, Caesar turned to Brutus and asked: “Et tu, Brute?” (And you, Brutus?)
Malema’s ousting has some similarities with the assassination of Caesar in that a close friend also played a big part. Malema is disappointed in his long-time comrade Pule Mabe, the ANC Youth League’s treasurer.
Mabe is part of a group campaigning for Malema’s removal. Like the conspirators who believed they were saving Rome, Mabe et al believe they are saving the youth league from going down with Malema. But Malema sees nothing but betrayal.
“At the end of everything else, we will not remember the words uttered by the enemies against us but will remember the silence of our friends during these difficult times,” he says on his voicemail.
He told a church to pray for him “because those that used to be our friends have turned against us. They have not only turned against us but plan our death.”
Malema and his lieutenants knew a long time ago that the axe would fall on them. But now that he has been thrown into the political wilderness, the spotlight falls on who is going to take over from him and what happens to the decision by the league to support him until the end of his term in 2014.
Therein lies an interesting development. Mabe is waiting in the wings to run the show. But this is not just a simple handover of the baton from one friend to another.
Mabe and his faction are pushing for an early conference to fill the powerful posts of Malema and secretary-general Sindiso Magaqa.
Mabe is said to be readying himself to take over from Malema, while the league’s deputy secretary, Kenetswe Mosenogi, is set to fill the gap left by Magaqa’s suspension.
Mosenogi is a close ally of Mabe, and both have been labelled traitors and sellouts by Malema’s faction.
If their plan succeeds, Malema will have lost significant control of the league even if he were to try to rule from the grave.
Malema and his cohorts are arguing that there is already a decision by the league’s national executive committee (NEC) – its highest decision-making body between conferences – to support Malema until 2014.
The former youth league president has thrown his lot in with acting league president Ronald Lamola. But Mabe’s group is pushing for the branches of the league, instead of its NEC, to make the decision on the league’s future at an elective conference.
Mabe has recently been crisscrossing the country, setting up bases from which to muster support to replace Malema.
Lamola has publicly argued that the ANC cannot fire or hire leaders for the youth league, which has its own constitution setting out how it should run its affairs.
This has opened the league to criticism that it is defining itself outside of its mother body.
It runs the risk of being disbanded if it continues to associate with Malema and defy the ANC – and this has created space for the mushrooming of new power players.
The league’s international affairs head, Apna Musase, and NEC member Mdu Manana, are emerging as the new power brokers.
Musase has presented himself as a moderate in the league – not openly supporting Malema’s attempts to cling on power while also not pushing for Mabe to ascend to the league’s highest post.
But support for Musase, who some are punting to take over as the league’s spokesman after the suspension of Floyd Shivhambu, is unclear. The rumblings from Mabe’s group are that Musase is positioning himself for a powerful seat, thus making him the enemy of the camp.
Manana, on the other hand, has been openly critical of Malema and his campaign to replace ANC secretary-general Gwede Mantashe with his friend Fikile Mbalula, the Sports Minister. Manana also told the public that Magaqa had misled the nation when he said the league had recently reaffirmed a decision to support Malema until 2014.
Manana is now part of the group that appears to want the decision to stick with Malema changed.
But will Mabe muster enough support to become the league’s new president? Although there was acceptance from some Malema allies that Mabe wielded significant support in the league’s NEC, it remains to be seen whether this will put him in a position to take over.
Mabe will be relying on Mosenogi to drum up support in the North West, where she comes from, among other provinces. She is also the league’s deployee in the Western Cape.
Mabe has travelled extensively with Malema and was key in his control room. Together they disbanded regions that disagreed with them and installed leaders who supported Malema for his second term last June.
He is an enemy Malema wouldn’t have wished to have.
Malema will be relying on the provincial leaders he installed on his way to his re-election to continue to support him. But some have turned their backs on him.
The league’s Limpopo spokesman, Che Selane, and Eastern Cape secretary Mziwonke Ndabeni said after the announcement of Malema’s expulsion that the provinces stood by him until 2014.
But Boy Mamabolo, a Malema enemy in Limpopo, said his group was celebrating Malema’s demise. Mamabolo was part of a group that held its own conference parallel to the one held by Malema allies a fortnight ago.
Ndabeni and other Malema supporters want Lamola to act until Malema has exhausted all his options. Malema supporters are set to ask the ANC’s NEC to review his expulsion. Should this fail, they will take the matter to the ANC elective conference in December. Even these two options are unlikely to yield any positive results for Malema, as he has indicated he might be freed by future generations.
It should also be noted that not all those who oppose Zuma in the ANC NEC will automatically support Malema’s reinstatement.
Zuma appears to have gained a lot of ground for a second term. Some ANC NEC leaders are bound to support him for fear of losing their jobs and businesses.
Malema has hit a tumultuous time, making him persona non grata.
Even at the league’s Limpopo conference, his allies could not take the risk of allowing him to attend or address the meeting although they were re-elected, creating one of the last solid bases for Malema’s support.
Just how this will help him remain in power is unclear.
Making matters worse is the fact that the ANC in Limpopo, led by Malema’s ally, Cassel Mathale, was cleared of any wrongdoing during its elective conference last year.
Contrary to a belief that Mathale and his executive could be disbanded, Zuma has given them a temporary reprieve.
This means the coalition of the wounded in the name of Malema is standing on shaky ground.
The taxman is also investigating businessmen linked to Malema in an operation that is set to stretch to the expelled young leader.
But what seems to pain Malema most is not what his enemies are doing to him, but the growing silence of some of his friends and associates.
As they say “when days are dark friends are few”.
Some of Malema’s friends, genuinely or opportunistically, now claim he, like Caesar, refused to listen to advice on fighting Zuma, a legendary political survivor.
As the youth league mulls over a future beyond Malema, the influence of its former president on the league is fast diminishing and looks as though it will die a slow death. But Malema’s legacy and his remnants in the league will continue to divide the league for some time to come.
There are strong indications that Mabe could take over from Malema, if he convinces the league to convene an early elective conference. This would mean the league will not plead for Malema’s reinstatement at the ANC’s conference in December.
But should Lamola win the day, Malema’s influence on the league will continue.
As to what will happen to Malema after Mabe’s takeover, that remains to be seen.
He can be a former president of the league who attacks Zuma from whatever platform he is offered.
But with Zuma having tightened his grip on power and Sars closing in, perhaps Malema was being prophetic when he told Metro FM his enemies wanted to see him ending up driving a taxi.