Quote of the week

[Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro] possesses, however, few of his predecessor’s resources, lacking not just oil revenue but Chávez’s surplus of charisma, humour and political skill. Maduro, unable to end the crisis, has increasingly sided with the privileged classes against the masses; his security forces are regularly dispatched into barrios to repress militants under the guise of fighting crime. Having lost its majority in Congress, the government, fearing it can’t win at the polls the way Chávez did, cancelled gubernatorial elections that had been set for December last year (though they now appear to be on again). Maduro has convened an assembly to write a new constitution, supposedly with the objective of institutionalising the power of social movements, though it is unlikely to lessen the country’s polarisation.

Greg Grandin
London Review of Books
18 June 2008

Oh Mr Malema, what are you smoking?

It would be easy to dismiss ANC Youth League president Julius Malema as an irresponsible fool. That he surely is, but fools can be dangerous – just ask the relatives of Iraqi’s who were killed during or after the American invasion ordered by another irresponsible fool, George W Bush – so we may do well to take this fool seriously.

According to The Times, Malema told a Youth day rally that his organisation is “prepared to take up arms and kill” if the impending fraud and corruption court case against Jacob Zuma is not dropped. Malema, who was addressing a Youth Day rally in Thaba Nchu, Free State, said Zuma’s trial would “divide the country”, as the ANC leader is widely expected to be the country’s president when the trial begins in earnest around 2010.

When Malema was pressed by Redi Direko of Talk Radio 702 yesterday morning, he contradicted and confirmed his statements, saying:

If anybody threatens our democracy we don’t need anybody’s permission to act. Prosecution of Zuma is political. We are prepared to kill and die for forces of darkness who undermine the black majority or those who are opposed to progress.

Julius Malema

I must say, when I first saw pictures of Malema I was rather smitten – he is such a pretty guy – but now it turns out he is not at all boyfriend material. He sounds like a cross between Robert Mugabe and a character from Lord of the Rings, huffing and puffing and muttering about the Dark Lord Sauron.

But what to do about this out of control youngster? Of course, if the ANC was serious about instilling discipline in its cadres they would first unequivocally distance themselves from these dangerous statements and would then institute disciplinary proceedings against him. Surely he has bought the name of the organisation into disrepute? Should he not be “dealt with” and expelled – at the very least? What more must he do? Flash his buttocks for the camera?

Some have suggested that his comments constitute “hate speech” and that he could be held to account in terms of the Promotion of Equality and Prevention of Unfair Discrimination Act (PEPUDA). Section 10 of the Act prohibits anyone from making statements based on one or more of the prohibited grounds like race, sex, religion, sexual orientation or disability “against any person, that could reasonably be construed to demonstrate a clear intention to be hurtful; be harmful or to incite harm; or promote or propagate hatred”.

But as his words were not directed at an identifiable group listed in PEPUDA (whites; woman; homosexuals, Muslims), he has clearly not infringed this prohibition against hate speech in PEPUDA. “Hate speech” is a much abused term in our body politic and whenever a person says something nasty or stupid some politician (Patricia are you there?) runs to the Human Rights Commission to complain about “hate speech”. Often – like in the present case – there is no grounds for such a complaint because a listed group was not targeted by the speech.

But it is a criminal offense to unlawfully and intentionally engage in conduct which defeats or obstructs the course of the administration of justice. To threaten to begin killing unspecified people if Mr Zuma is tried (let alone if he is convicted) could well fall within the ambit of this criminal offense. Surely by stating that Mr Zuma’s trial must be stopped and that the Youth League is prepared to kill to prevent Mr Zuma from being convicted he is interfering with the administration of justice. If I was the judge in any of Mr Zuma’s trials I would be rather nervous and would feel intimidated by such irresponsible talk.

Somebody with some time on their hands should lay a criminal charge against Mr Malema with the police. Maybe we can ask Gandolf or Frodo to do it for us?

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