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
8 April 2010

PW Botha = Julius Malema?

Regular readers of this Blog will know that I have not responded to the antics of ANC Youth League President, Julius Malema, in the same hysterical fashion as some of my fellow South Africans. I have joked about my fantasy of sharing a night of passion with the Youth League leader (maybe after he loses a few kilograms first). Malema has returned the compliment by quoting me approvingly in the Mail & Guardian two weeks ago.

However, after watching the video of Julius Malema ranting at a journalist from the BBC for having the audacity to point out that Malema stays in Sandton, I was left with an uneasy feeling. At first, I was not sure why this outburst was so unsettling. Surely we have seen all this before from the youngster? Then it hit me: Julius Malema reminds me of PW Botha!

Like Botha, Malema is a man of limited intellect who never had much success with his formal education. Like Botha, Malema joined his political party of choice at a young age and despite limited abilities raised quickly through its ranks to serve in a leadership position. Like Botha, Malema is a bully who insults and intimidates opponents and some members of his own party in such a way that it gives great pleasure to his core supporters while scaring the hell out of everyone else.

Like Botha, Malema has become a figure that is both feared within his party and laughed at behind his back. PIeter Dirk Uys published a satirical book called “PW Botha in his own words”, made up entirely of quotes by PW Botha. Recently Max du Preez and Mandy Rossouw did pretty much the same thing with Malema when they published “The World According to Julius Malema”. Like Botha, Malema is often economical with the truth, making claims that cannot be sustained.

Of course, Malema does not have the finger wagging abilities of Die Groot Krokodil and he belongs to a party which fought against apartheid – unlike Botha who had people killed because they fought against apartheid. Nevertheless, both men seem to be cut from the same fascist cloth.

Just have a look at these quotes from Malema and Botha and spot the similarities! First, here is Julius Malema yesterday:

You can go out…rubbish is what you have covered in that trouser – that is rubbish. That which you have covered in [your] clothes is rubbish, ok? You are a small boy you can’t do anything. Go out…bastard! Go out! You bloody agent! >We cannot be allowed to be undermined in our own terrain, you can do that in your own offices, but here, once you come in here – this is not a playground, this is Luthuli House. It’s the head quarters of a revolutionary party which has liberated the people of South Africa. Here you come, you restrain yourself and behave in a manner that is befitting of being in the head quarters of the ANC. It’s not a beer-hall here, it’s not a drunk beer-hall – cheap beer-hall, this. And you ask anybody including political parties which tried to undermine this house what happened to them. You can undermine all of us but not the house. Never undermine the house. When you are here, you are in a different terrain. You are in our space and you are going to behave in a manner that is befitting of being in the ANC office. You don’t howl here especially when we speak and you behave like you are in an American press conference? This is not America, it’s Africa. You must behave in an African way. If you are in Rome you do as the Romans do.

Now check out some of the things Die Groot Krokodil said:

Most blacks are happy, except those who have had other ideas pushed into their ears.

The people who are opposing the policy of apartheid have not the courage of their convictions. They do not marry non-Europeans.

The free world wants to feed South Africa to the Red Crocodile [communism], to appease its hunger.

I am sick and tired of the hollow parrot-cry of “Apartheid!” I’ve said many times that the word “Apartheid” means good neighborliness.

We have such a vast task ahead of us and such great challenges to create a better future, that we can ill afford the irresponsibilities and destructive actions of barbaric Communist agitators and even murderers who perpetrate the most cruel deeds against fellow South Africans, because they are on the payroll of their masters far from this lovely land of ours. I have the knowledge because I have the facts. As head of this Government I am in the position to tell you tonight what the facts are.

No, my friend, I am not a communist. [After being heckled at a political meeting by a man who shouted: “Give black people all the vote.”]

The ANC eventually got the better of PW Botha (with a little bit of help from FW de Klerk, Pik Botha and a stroke of luck). The question is whether its leadership will get the better of Malema? Or maybe the real question is whether ANC leaders want to get the better of him? I often wonder why the good people in the ANC do not take on Malema and if this silence means that they are not good people after all.

But I suppose that is a question to be left to the conscience of the good people inside the ANC. Wonder if they sleep well at night. [Botha said in 1987: “I switch off the lights and sleep within a few minutes. I never take a guilty conscience with me to bed.”]

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