Malema: credibility on trial

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MY collection of Hugh Masekela’s music includes Hugh Masekela and the Union of South Africa. It features the trumpeter with Jonas Gwangwa and Cephas Semenya.

This goes back a long way.

But I have recently listened again to Liberation, which features Politician. Not surprisingly it is as polemical as any of his early hits.

“Where is your credibility?” the politician is asked. There is a line in which the politician is said to be “counting your money from the weapon sales”.

Few politicians can answer that question on credibility honestly.

Silvio Berlusconi of Italy is the latest example. Imagine how much grief he would have spared his country — Europe, in fact — if he had resigned, let’s say, five years ago.

But for Masekela the question would be directed at the main players in the Julius Malema farce.

May be the young politician has got his just desserts with the suspension, but there is more to be considered.

The downside is this: the concept of the one-party system in Africa persists to this day.

This is in spite of the many examples of how the party which won independence performed so disastrously in just one election it almost went bust.

Previously, such parties manipulated the election process to their advantage. But hoping to fool all the people all the time is a fool’s paradise.

The nearest examples of this phenomenon are Malawi and Zambia. Zimbabwe is another example.

In 2008, President Robert Mugabe’s Zanu PF party lost.

Even after “doctoring” the results, it still lost.

It could survive in power only by persuading the major opposition into an alliance, which has developed many cracks. It is teetering on the brink of collapse.

South Africa’s ANC would be well-advised not to scoff at the likelihood of falling into that predicament — losing an election, then being forced into a unity government with the Democratic Alliance.

The manner in which it allowed itself to be intimidated by Malema and his allies suggested it took the challenge seriously.

How could the party which brought independence be cowed by an internal challenge posed by a 30-year-old upstart?

Everybody knew Malema was not alone. It would have been amazing if he, entirely on his own, had mounted the challenge, which was to unseat Jacob Zuma as president of the party.

Still, the panic-stricken response was amazing.

Delving into the ethnic element is dangerous. Zuma is Zulu and Malema is Pedi. He could be flying the flag for the other minorities, including the Xhosa.

It must be the sincere hope of all peace-loving Africans that all South Africans are aware of the perils of internecine wrangles.

Rwanda was no picnic: the ANC had a bloody set-to with the Zulu-dominated Inkhata Freedom Party of Mangosuthu Buthelezi before 1994.

How can South Africa, with its vast potential to set a shining example for the rest of the continent, succumb to such foolishness?

The African Union’s credibility would be sorely tested if it does not intervene before the fuse on that powder keg is lit.

The topside of the Malema madness is that it showed a party willing to get tough to hold itself together.

But the biggest test was of the credibility of the players. Who was being honest in their responses?

Who was engaging in duplicity?

South Africa is not a one-party state: the Democratic Alliance stirred a lot of interest when it changed its parliamentary leadership from a white male to a black female MP.

But the suspicion was that Helen Zille’s voice could still be heard behind that of Ms Mazibuko.

It’s unfair to pillory her as Ms Zille’s puppet.

The criticism may not be entirely sexist and racist, but it stinks to high heaven or both.

South Africa’s multi-racial political landscape has been extolled for creating the chance of one nation.

There is an opportunity to bury the hatchet of the architects of apartheid, which sliced the country into little pieces of racial fiefdoms — the Bantustans included.

Anyone hoping for a return to that madness must have as little credibility as Malema and some of his critics.

Bill Saidi is a veteran journalist based in Harare

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