Thu Dec 08 16:21:41 SAST 2016

Zuma and ministers are playing into wily Malema's hands

The Times Editorial | 2012-08-24 00:17:22.0

The Times Editorial: The aftermath of the Marikana massacre appears to be about managing perceptions. This applies in particular to President Jacob Zuma and the ministers he appointed to ensure proper attention is given to the tragedy.

It appears that Zuma and his ministers have underestimated the resentment of those who believe the government has not shown enough concern about the living conditions of the striking miners.

They have also underestimated the power of expelled ANC Youth League leader Julius Malema, who has maximised his popular appeal at Marikana.

Yesterday's events illustrated that, even though Malema has no official power and has been exiled from the ANC, Zuma and his ministers have woefully underestimated him.

Undaunted by their seniority, Malema let rip with invective against the ministers in the audience. After being branded "cowards", they crept out of the service to their luxurious sedans to be driven away to safety.

This is precisely what Malema the populist wanted, and it is precisely what Zuma would has been trying to avoid: being seen to be intimidated by a man who has been banished from the ruling party.

While the ministers might have handled the situation badly, Zuma tried to handle niftily the terms of the commission of inquiry into the Marikana events. The terms might be straightforward, but the duration of the commission is pure genius.

Set up to run for four months, with a further month to complete its report, its findings are likely to be released only after the ANC elective conference in December.

That affords Zuma time for the bad publicity - for his government, party and alliance partners - to recede.

Perception is everything. Yesterday, the perception was of ministers cowed by an upstart and of a president taking action, but largely in his own interest.

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