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Munusamy’s reflection on Malema and EFF

Date Released: Wed, 21 May 2014 14:00 +0200

Scores of Rhodes University students and staff braved the cold weather on Monday (19 May 2014)  to listen to a political analyst and seasoned journalist, Ms Ranjeni Munusamy reflect on the power of political leader Julius Malema and the rise of “wildcard” party the Economic Freedom Fighters.

She spoke to a packed Barratt Lecture Theatre during the first part of the 2014 Teach-In Series, organised annually by the Department of Political and International Studies. This year’s series focuses on the May 7 general election.

In Munusamy’s opinion, there is something significant about the emergence of new political voices in this fifth national election. “We have seen 20 years of rapid change on the ground but now is going to be a time for rapid ideological change,” she said.

Julius Malema, according to Munusamy, is a person to watch in the future. Reflecting from her years of experience, she spoke about Malema as a complex man who is shy in person but wholly different when given a microphone. “When you look at Julius you don’t realise what is behind that big personality,” the Daily Maverick Associate Editor said.

She traced a genealogy of Malema’s political power, starting from the moment he led the Congress of South African Students (Cosas) march in Johannesburg in 2002. Shortly after this unruly entry, Malema rose in the ranks of the ANC Youth League and saw himself elected its president in June 2008.

Barely three months into this new role, Malema had already proved his ability to read a political climate by being the first to demand the recall of former president Thabo Mbeki in September 2008.

As Jacob Zuma’s “useful idiot”, Malema thereafter became the voice that delivered the blows to all who opposed the new president and the youth league that had supported his instatement. “He was like an automatic weapon going off in all directions,” Munusamy said.

But it was not long before his criticism, so long allowed to rage unchecked, turned on the ruling party itself. Munusamy remembered how Malema’s message of economic transformation first emerged in a relatively low-key manner, but then took off when the sharp-minded young politician saw that people were listening and responding.

“Even at that early stage he said ‘This is going to be the new campaign that will change this country’,” she said, recalling how Malema began to agitate for change in the ANC’s economic policy.

“Malema was really rattling cages and that’s when people realised how powerful he was,” Munusamy added.

Despite growing opposition within the ANC and his eventual dismissal for misconduct, Munusamy sad that “Malema was capturing something in the youth.”

His following re-emerged when, after a difficult year of silence and studies in 2012, the magnetic Malema announced the launch of new political party the Economic Freedom Fighters in 2013.

Munusamy had the audience laughing when she relayed the story of an interview she conducted with Malema in June last year, in which he told her that he and Floyd Shivambu had two options when they finished exams: “have a party or start a party.”

While Munusamy said Malema’s formula was no different to that of fellow new party leader Dr Mamphela Ramphele, what she believes set his campaign apart is that his language was different. “Malema diagnosed the problem and provided a solution,” she said.

A string of engaging questions on economic policy, racism, and gender issues showed the audience’s interest in Munusamy’s message.

The Teach-In will continue during the week, with lectures resuming today (21 Wednesday 2014).

By Kyla Hazell

Photo source: Oppidan Press, by Hlumela Mkabile