Face-off with the ‘old Julius’
When Julius Malema was ANC Youth League president he was prone to dangerous rhetoric that strayed far outside the bounds of civility. He was brash, abusive and insulting.
No matter how much South Africans tried to get used to his wilful behaviour, he would always find new ways to shock the nation. Instead of reining him in, the ANC leadership made excuses for Malema, saying he was a young leader who was still developing. What everyone knew then was that he could not be contained because he was the battering ram for more senior leaders.
But Malema is no longer just a leader of a youth wing of a political party. He is now the fully fledged head of a major, fast-growing party. He is taken very seriously by South Africans and foreigners alike. His growth in stature is as much a result of the impact the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) has had on political developments as it is a fruit of his own political maturity.
But from time to time, Malema fails to suppress his old self, and has been in “old Julius” mode of late. A few weeks back, he told black people to produce more babies so that they never lose their majority status. This, in a society in which desperate mothers abandon babies and millions of children are dependent on social grants for their basic survival.
Then last week he upped the ante by threatening armed insurrection if the ANC tried to steal elections. The statement may not have been treasonous, as the ANC argues, but it was reckless and dangerous. In this constitutional democracy where the EFF, other opposition parties, individuals and civil society organisations have won victories using constitutional avenues, there is no reason to be threatening violence. The war threat is made worse by the fact that we are already in a highly charged pre-election environment.
So to Malema: Keep the old Julius locked away.