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Saviour or sybarite, Julius is a power to be reckoned with

The Editor, The Times Newspaper | 2011-10-31 00:08:16.0
ANCYL president Julius Malema. File photo.

The Times Editorial: They say a week is a long time in politics and this is certainly proving true in the case of ANC Youth League president Julius Malema.

THEY say a week is a long time in politics and this is certainly proving true in the case of ANC Youth League president Julius Malema.

Within a few days, Malema has gone from being hailed for leading a peaceful march of thousands of young people "for economic freedom" to being condemned as a vain, self-interested, champagne-sipping hypocrite.

For two days Malema's image as a rabble-rouser receded as he championed the causes of South Africa's young people, particularly those who have been left out of the formal economy.

By Friday, however, his image had returned to negative territory as he transformed from marching revolutionary to elite jet-setter on his way to a frolic in Mauritius.

To add to the damage, word spread that the Hawks were preparing to arrest him for his business dealings and in connection with allegations about his family trust.

And so we are left to wonder about who the real Malema is - a champion of the masses, or an upstart from Polokwane who uses his position as youth leader to get ahead?

What is clear is that Malema loves the good life: the watch, the pimp-purple suit, the friends in high places.

Holding a significant portion of the black youth in the palm of his hand - enough to scare those in power - gives Malema a lot of clout among the political and business elite.

Everyone is afraid of underestimating that power and his long march on Thursday and Friday reinforced the fear that he has plenty of supporters who will heed his calls to action.

Malema's ANC disciplinary hearing has not stopped his supporters from following him. Instead, it has cast him as a victim of the ruling party.

An arrest and subsequent court case might have exactly the same effect - elevating him to martyr status.

Malema, as we have seen yet again this past week, is a powerful player. Wishing him away is just not going to work.

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