John Campbell

Africa in Transition

Campbell tracks political and security developments across sub-Saharan Africa.

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South Africa Populist Julius Malema on the Comeback Trail?

by John Campbell
December 21, 2011

Suspended ANCYL president Julius Malema (L) gestures as his secretary-general Sindiso Magaqa looks on during a media briefing at the party's headquarters in Johannesburg, November 16, 2011. (Siphiwe Sibeko/Courtesy Reuters)

Former African National Congress (ANC) youth leader Julius Malema has been elected to the Limpopo Province Executive Committee. Limpopo, his home province and political base, is more than 97 percent black; whites number only 2.4 percent, and are mostly Afrikaans speakers. Other racial groups — “Indians” and “Coloureds” — are negligible in number. Limpopo is also one of the poorest regions of South Africa, especially in the rural areas.

His political ally and current Limpopo premier, Cassel Mathale, was elected as chairman of the provincial ANC.

The South African press is interpreting their victories — especially that of Malema — as a slap at ANC party leader and South African president Jacob Zuma. Malema was suspended earlier this year from the ANC for calling for the nationalization of the mines, expropriation of white-owned land without compensation, and the overthrow of the friendly government in adjoining Botswana.

Both face challenges though. Malema is appealing his five-year suspension from the party. If he is not successful, he will not be able to take up the provincial post. Mathale faces allegations of financial mismanagement.

Malema’s struggle with Zuma is more than a matter of personalities. It is also a conflict over different visions of South Africa’s future against the background of persistent economic inequality among racial groups and slow progress in addressing the poverty of the black majority — the ANC’s core constituency.

Post a Comment 2 Comments

  • Posted by Alexander

    Having lived in South Africa for almost 8 years, there is no doubt that the politics here can be turbulent. But let me point out that Malema is not riding high after his election to the provision Limpopo executive council. As noted in the press here, he received the 3rd lowest voting total, i.e. he was 17th out of 20. You also write that the struggle between Malema and Zuma is “a conflict over different visions of South Africa’s future”. It’s hard to tell if that is actually the case. True, Malema has advocated nationalisation, but this reflects his “populist” approach to politics. In other words, his position makes him heard and gives him an unquantifiable power base as the self-proclaimed “champion of the poor”. But let’s recall that he has offered little or no details on how nationalisation will benefit the poor. Rather, what the Zuma-Malema struggle represents is another of many internal power sturggle within the ANC (going back to the very first ANC government under Mandela), because here is where – for better or worse – the political power in South Africa resides for the foreseeable future.

  • Posted by mankwe

    malema,hope your leave to appeal is not granted,SA need new faces and people who will consider the needs of the poor.NOT A DICTATOR

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