Fiery South African youth leader suspended, but the fire remains (+video)
Suspension of ANC Youth League leader Julius Malema may soothe South Africa's political and economic elites. But guest blogger Zama Ndlovu says youths won't remain silent.
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Albeit badly handled, the nationalisation debate was the first time that a larger portion of the country took part in a national discussion on the economic path that South Africa is on. Serious questions were raised on the efficacy of current policies, and even though it was from structures within the ANC, the debate was youth driven. It was not a sexy or nation-building topic, and it was bound to make those in the wealthier classes uncomfortable, but it was a natural next step for a country whose citizens had been cordial with each other for too long, afraid to ask the difficult questions about the inequitable status quo.Skip to next paragraph
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Malema’s call for nationalization of mines and banks and expropriation of land, although not on the official charge sheet, until this morning, was seen by many to be the real reason why the ANC acted firmly and decisively against the ANC Youth League leadership. Capitalists who had popped champagne at the young leader’s downfall were forced to spit their Moet back in the bottle when the ANC’s Secretary General Gwede Mantashe announced at a press conference in Luthuli house this morning, that nationalization was “not a Malema issue, but an ANC issue.” The ANC may have been seeking to reassure its youth members in particular, that the decisive actions taken against the ANCYL president were not meant to close the discussion on alternative economic policies for development. However, the nationalization debate is back in the corridors of Luthuli House and no longer encouraged for robust public debate.
If this was a move by the ANC to shut down dissenting opinion on economic policy, it is not a wise one, because South Africa’s youth will not go hungry indefinitely. Political and economic decisions cannot continue to be made far from the prying eyes of those who are expected to religiously vote for the ANC while accepting all its decisions without question.
More broadly, South Africans must accept that the honeymoon phase of the Rainbow Nation’s marriage is over. The Malema-induced fear that engulfed the wealthier classes is also a reflection of a nation that does not trust the strength of the democratic institutions in the country. Celebrating Malema’s demise simply because he made certain classes uncomfortable is not a win for the young democracy. If South Africa is to move toward a meaningful democratic and economic solution for all its citizens, there must be better engagement on difficult discussions required to move the country forward between people from different social and economic backgrounds.
Once the dust clears and wounds heal, the ANCYL will have to pick a new leader to carry its cause to the Mangaung conference. There’s already growing speculation that Ronald Lomola may be the next leader, a man described by a Mail & Guardian source as “more aggressive than Julius (Malema) and ... without the abrasiveness.” It’s still early to tell whether a new boogie-man is being created or whether, if elected, the lawyer will better articulate the youth message without the distractions from questionable lifestyle choices. What is clear is that Malema’s political career may be buried, but the issues remain unaddressed.
As South Africans, we assume that our society is stable, developed, and incapable of the kinds of outbreaks that occurred in North Africa early last year. But the recurring xenophobic attacks, and the violence of service delivery protests should be a signal that there is still much for this country to resolve. If there is indeed truth the saying that “democracy lives in the ANC,” it would not be in South Africa’s best interest for the ANC to muffle its youth.
--- Zama Ndlovu writes about South African news and social issues on the Mail & Guardian's blog page, Thought Leader.
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