||SPEAKING to the youth in Durban's Cator Manor at a rally 10 days ago,
ANC Youth League leader Julius Malema gave the game away.
"If Zuma is corrupt, we want him with his corruption," he said.
There is no context in which a statement like this is acceptable. It is
a subject we are now very sensitive to after learning of Schabir Shaik's
early prison release from a 15-year fraud sentence for corrupting the
man almost certain to be our next state president, Jacob Zuma.
Malema's remark was made at a political event to honour youth leadership
Zuma's middle name, Gedleyihlekisa, means "he who smiles while he is
hurting you", and the rapturous laughs Malema received from his
followers were loud enough for them to forget that they, the youth of
South Africa, would be most hurt by a politician who smiles while
destroying our liberation gains and our future peace prospects and
How on earth Malema is seen fit for any leadership award is very
perplexing. He is a sexist loose cannon who will cost his party a huge
number of votes.
Malema caused an outcry from gender activists for insensitively handling
the allegations of rape against Zuma.
While speaking to students at a Western Cape university last year, he
crassly suggested that Zuma's rape accuser actually enjoyed her
encounter with him.
He told students that women who enjoyed sex "don't leave early" but
instead requested breakfast and taxi fare the following morning.
Malema also did not spare Education Minister Naledi Pandor of his bile
when he criticised her "American" accent (in fact it's British).
Malema was told where to get off, and had to swallow his words and
In Durban, sweating profusely in sweltering heat, Malema was in his
usual form attacking political parties and the media alike.
He accused Joe Seremane of the DA of being Helen Zille's "garden boy",
and he labelled her a " colonialist".
Malema accused Cope of being a party of "angrysts", prone to splitting.
"Wherever they are, they must be having a nightmare. Bringing priests
and retired bishops will not defeat the ANC," he charged.
Malema added that Cope members had a tendency to leave whenever Zuma won.
He said he would like to see "where these people go when Zuma becomes
South Africa's president" in a few weeks' time.
But what if Cope does not go away and it indeed becomes the official
Malema probably dreads having people with ANC background like Terror
Lekota, Mbhazima Shilowa, Allan Boesak and Phillip Dexter as sparring
partners. He prefers picking on the DA.
Malema has attacked those who criticise him and Zuma for being
illiterate. His critics were "educated but are useless with their
education", was his response. This may be a fair point in some cases,
but hardly encouraging as we need our youth to respect the value of
With his mud-slinging, Malema is cheapening public discourse and
instilling a culture of political stupidity, not to mention disrespect
for elders, among the youth.
I do not know Malema's ethnicity, but I have always thought that
Africans were known for respecting their elders. Were the giggling youth
attending the Cato Manor meeting transported from another province?
On the positive side, Malema has advocated increasing the age of
children receiving the child grant to 18 years.
He also suggested increased salaries for our underpaid public servants.
But these gains perhaps raise the biggest problem we face in civil
society when contemplating who to vote for. Will the issues we are
passionate about be devalued through their association with dodgy
These issues have led to dynamic lobbying in many communities - from
shack settlements to bus drivers - who have declared that without real
service provision and a developmental state, they will not vote next month.
Instead, they protest. The latest police statistics show that over 12
months ending in March 2008, there were 7 003 incidents recorded under
the Gatherings Act, of which 699 included violent "unrest". About 1 150
incidents occurred in KwaZulu-Natal.
One such protest will occur on Friday morning, in an International
Working Women's Day march from Botha's Garden to the Durban City Hall.
The groups calling this march demand peace during the elections, an end
to gender-based violence, the full integration of women into the
political, economic, social and cultural life in South Africa, and
solidarity with the women and children of Gaza and Zimbabwe.
The ANC government has done much for women. Yet the danger is that men
such as Malema "talk left" at election time, making grand promises of
state support to society's vulnerable.
Faith kaManzi lives in Cato Manor and is a community scholar at the UKZN
Centre for Civil Society.