Thu Dec 08 16:22:37 SAST 2016

We can't ignore the voices of the poor

Sunday Times Editorial | 2011-11-13 00:27:26.0

Sunday Times Editorial:THE decision by the ANC's disciplinary committee to suspend Julius Malema's membership for five years has been warmly received - and for good reason. There can be no doubt that Malema has done the country incalculable damage in the few short years since he rose to prominence as the ANC's youth leader.

He has actively sought to re-racialise South African politics and has made polarisation the raison d'être of his politics.

He has harmed the country's economic prospects by raising the possibility of nationalisation. Ten years ago, this would have been hopelessly behind the times. In 2011, it is utterly ridiculous.

South Africa, which spent a long, hard decade persuading the world of its fiscal and financial bona fides, has finally lost its glister owing, in no small part, to the pronouncements of Malema.

This week, Moody's downgraded the country's credit rating, citing growing political risk.

Not content with rending the fabric of non-racialism and undermining our economic credentials, he has taken to the world stage to make dangerous foreign-policy pronouncements.

He has alienated Botswana, an important South African ally, by suggesting, in public, that the youth league actively work to overthrow its legitimate, elected government, which he described as working hand in glove with "imperialists".

Perhaps most damaging has been his abuse of the country's poor and marginalised, whom he has sought to mobilise in a fight for "economic freedom".

He has done so while enjoying the lifestyle of a multi-millionaire, much of it funded by money obtained through the questionable allocation of tenders through his company On-Point.

Far from offering "economic freedom", Malema has entrenched a vulgar model of tender cronyism, undermining delivery to the very people he purports to champion.

Without batting an eyelid, he has advocated conspicuous consumption, a social disease which is gnawing at this society's ability to deal with its challenges - although he has been careful to wear T-shirts and berets to marches and fine European shirts to parties with his fellow tenderpreneurs.

Malema is a danger to our society, not because he stands up for the poor, but because he delegitimises their struggle to be placed on the national agenda.

While Malema should be diminished as a political force, it is critical that we listen to the those whose voice he has stolen.

We live in a highly unequal society, which is heading towards disaster unless education, employment and dignity are found for its youth.

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