So what if Julius Malema’s flash about his cash?

Maybe I am just not as smart as I used to be, but there is something that does not quite sit right with me about the whole media saga on Julius Malema and how he makes his money. The newspapers have been awash with speculation that the president of the ANC Youth League, who is overly fond of refering to himself in the first person plural (we), may or may not be benefitting from unethical practices by one or more of his businesses. The argument, roughly, is that he is a director/owner of various businesses which have benefitted from tenders from government. This is then used to make the additional point that these untoward business deals support his apparently lavish lifestyle.

Let us first get the disclaimers, or as Sibongile Ndashe would say ‘the passwords’, out of the way. I am no fan of the ANCYL president by any stretch of the imagination, but I do not think he is stupid. Far from it, I think he is incredibly canny, witty and deliberately funny. You don’t get to be as powerful and incredibly popular as Julius is by accident. And make no mistake about it, he is incredibly – and somewhat frighteningly – popular with a whole range of people. I find the ongoing jokes about his real or fabricated matric results distasteful.  At the same time, I think that Malema can be a bit of a loose canon – which is not always a bad thing in life, mind you. I was enraged by his very thinly veiled threats as he announced that he’d kill for Zuma. I was outraged and offended when he made the hateful misognynist comments about Khwezi. And I would not vote for him because I do not knowingly vote for misogynists. In other words, most of the time he annoys me endlessly. That is a very nice way of saying I find him unbearable most of the time.

But.

Yes, but.

I do not understand the specific tenor of the media obsession href=”http://www.mg.co.za/article/2010-02-21-malemas-lifestyle-sponsored-by-govt-tenders”>with how he makes his money. Firstly, I am not entirely sure that this is news, apart from the general way in which the culture of conspicuous consumption, flash living, and  corruption are newsworthy – sort of.  At best, if all that is claimed about Malema’s finances is true, what does it tell us about our society or political elite that we did not already know? The media has never shied away from illustrating the connections between political power and business connections in the awarding of tenders and other irregularities. Corruption does always need to be exposed – but what does ongoing exposure of what we (think we) already know achieve?

It confirms our suspicions over and over again, makes us angrier and then maybe prods us to act differently in response to the shoddy work of those we elect to power.

1. If Malema is guilty of doing something illegal – whatever corruption or other guise it takes – he needs to be brought to book. He needs to be investigated, arrested and convicted (in an ideal world, all three together).  But I am fascinated by how most media reports are less interested in establishing and/or claiming that there is criminality than in focusing on his body and questioning his gumption in being flash about his cash. In South Africa, are you kidding me? In the world in 2010?

2. If Malema is lying about having resigned from the various Directorships, then I would really like to know what he is hiding. It does not make sense for what he is hiding to be what we already know. That would not be very effective hiding, now, would it? And remember, I don’t think he is stupid. On the one hand, there may be something much more sinister here than ‘just’ corruption in usual guise. On the other hand, he did not technically need to lie to cover up the generalised corruption the papers claim they have found. Given that he is not a public state official – but an elected party official. Technically, he can own as many businesses as he likes and do as much business with government, receive as much cash funded by our tax rands as he likes and not owe us an explanation, unless there is something untoward and illegal happening. Unless ‘we’ elected him to the ANCYL presidency, which I did not. The fact that he seems to have lied about these resignations worries me a lot more than the possibility that he is getting tenders and money through political connections. Newspaper reports and arguments by Redi Direko who interviewed Malema on her show on 702 this morning point out that Malema is still listed as Director of several businesses he claims no connection with. She also pointed to some other illegality since he arrived for the interview with her in the same license-plate free white Range Rover he arrived at Wits in last week. As Direko pointed to the irresponsibility and illegality of driving/riding in the car, Malema remarked that he had not noticed and would talk to the driver about rectifying this. Does he really expect anyone to believe this? Then, there is the bizzare gameplaying or scapegoating that he engaged in rather than answering another journalist’s questions.

This all makes me wonder much more about what is really going on here. I wish the media were doing a better job of actually providing some news on this front, rather than telling us how he flashes his cash at the same time that even respectable media outlets celebrate others who flash their cash. Part of this hypocrisy on bling culture and celebrity culture is that old fashioned business is founded on the same unethical and unscrupulous acquisition of money through barely legal ways.

As for Malema, I wait with bated breath for the REAL story to break, and will continue to scan the repetitive ‘news’ for something new.

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Posted on 23 February 2010, in South African universities, Southern African politics, things that suck, Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

  1. Hi Pumla,

    I agree there’s much more to this story than meets the eye. I also feel that the ‘lifestyle’ audit thing will always be suspicious unless its done by a credible authority with clear terms of reference. Its not something that should be left to the press’ speculation or anecdotal evidence.

    Julius also has not painted himself in glory in this whole saga…worse of all has been the PR Management of the issue. He’s constant reference to his ANC Salary makes a mockery of the whole defence he’s putting up.

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