The tail and the dog

On September 16 2009, a column appeared in Bolander titled “The Julius Malema dilemma: our next president?”

In that piece, I speculated on Mr Malema’s presidential ambitions, concluding that it was entirely possible he could satisfy those ambitions if he played his cards right for the next 15 to 20 years.

Since then of course, he has been booted out of the ANC and started the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF), of which he is the much vaunted commander-in-chief.

There has, of late, been a good deal of speculation about whether or not this trajectory is a devilishly clever Machiavellian plot to progress a socialist agenda by shifting Mr Malema out of the ANC so that he could kite-fly a series of socialist ideals which the ANC could then either disavow or adopt, depending upon how they are viewed by society at large.

Similarly flawed thinking lends unsustainable credence to the view that past president Jacob Zuma and his ex-wife, Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma, hatched a plot way back in 1998 when she divorced him, that would culminate in Mr Zuma passing on the presidential reigns to Ms Dlamini Zuma after his two terms in office, allowing Mr Zuma to rule from behind the throne for a further 10 years.

Both speculations are, in my view, devoid of any truth.

It is more likely that Mr Malema chose to not wait the 15 to 20 years he would have to wait, in order to attain the age at which he would be considered a serious contender.

That the right gender and age are prerequisites for high office in the ANC, is by now self-evident.

He has the gender, he does not have the age, so what better way to leapfrog the system by throwing off the constraints of party discipline and succession protocols, than to form his own political party, cleverly positioned to the left of the ANC?<

Whether or not he believes in the veracity of the various policy positions he espouses on behalf of the EFF, is academic.

What matters, is the traction he has in our political discourse.

Were he to have toed the line and remained in the ANC, whether as president of the ANC Youth League or in a deputy ministerial portfolio, he wouldn’t have anywhere near the public profile he currently enjoys.

When last did his age-contemporary Buti Manamela, now Deputy Minister of Higher Education, make the news?

By contrast, Mr Malema is virtually a fixture in news reports.

More importantly, despite the ANC’s denials to the contrary, he certainly seems to be driving the national political agenda.

Yes, the ANC did adopt a resolution at its December elective conference to consider expropriation without compensation (EWC), but it was Mr Malema who seized the initiative and placed on the National Assembly order paper that by now seminal vote, which forced the ANC into reactive mode, where it has ever since been on the land question.

Enter the Reserve Bank nationalisation debate, and once more Mr Malema has stolen a march on the ANC by introducing a private member’s bill to the National Assembly, after the ANC chose to not pursue its own resolution on the matter, also adopted at its December elective conference.

That nationalisation of the Reserve Bank will not in any way change how monetary policy is formulated – shareholders have no say in monetary policy formulation, or the mechanisms in place that govern monetary policy formulation – is academic.

Once more, Mr Malema has the ANC on the back foot.

The factional divides in the ANC that led to the adoption of the EWC resolution in December are still firmly in place, witnessed by the overt support for Mr Zuma’s cause, despite party leadership instructions to the contrary.

Even if the ANC officially chooses to not support Mr Malema’s private member’s bill, if the EFF pursues a secret ballot – and that Pandora’s Box is now wide open – it is entirely possible that the bill will see passage through the House.

The symbolism of that victory will give further credence to the notion that Mr Malema and his freedom fighters are driving the national political agenda.

The EFF’s previous electoral performance notwithstanding – around 7% and 8% in 2014 and 2016 respectively – come 2019, Mr Malema may well be where he strives to be: kingmaker in a hung parliament where no party has a clear majority.

Which begs the question: what price would he exact in return for giving the ANC what it needs to form a government?