Malema’s charges: Political conspiracy or the course of justice?

By IndepthAfrica
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Sep 30th, 2012
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Julius Malema appears in the Polokwane Regional Court in Limpopo on 26 September 2012. Sapa

Mogomotsi Mogodiri

Malema’s charges will really usher in a hilarious soap opera

The seriousness of charges levelled against Julius Malema has robbed me of an opportunity to proclaim the arrival in town of “Juju’s Circus”.

This does not by any long shot mean that we will not be served with hilarious entertainment as this political soap opera unfolds for several months to come.

It is, however, the issues at stake and not the side shows that South Africans, and indeed the world, will be most interested in.

What are the issues underlying Malema’s potential criminalisation? Or is a political trial, which is dividing public opinion, so devastating?

For us to fully appreciate the far-reaching implications of these issues, we will need to cut through the clutter and howling from the “pro and anti-Malema forces” that are clearly bent on outmanoeuvring one another through dominating the voices that shape public discourse.

Interestingly but not surprisingly, allegations of political conspiracy abound.

But do the assertions that the charges against Malema are politically motivated wash?

Are state agencies abused for political gains or are the current protestations simply a desperate attempt at diverting attention?

Or is the Amigo-style tactic of extracting political support – where Uruguayan billionaire Gaston Savoi allegedly used political connections to win state contracts, as was done with Peggy Nkonyeni and Mike Mabuyakhulu – being applied?

Those who are and have been baying for Malema’s blood are quick to dismiss the assertions of abuse of state organs as a ­well-calculated ploy to avoid answering for his malfeasance and are calling for a swift trial and even harsh sentencing.

I can hear them saying that Malema called all these legal woes upon himself and he must have his day in court.

I can also hear those in Malema’s corner saying that the timing of the charges is disturbingly suspicious, especially given that several state agencies and interestingly the Public Protector concluded their investigations almost simultaneously.

All things being equal but we all know that they are not, we would be entitled to disregard these assertions outright.

Given the contaminated political climate, is there no credence to a political conspiracy claim?

To adequately deal with this question, we need to cast our eyes on recent political developments.

They have had the unintended consequence of giving some credence to the assertion that charges against Malema are politically motivated.

Firstly, we had the Marikana tragedy testing, beyond limit, our country’s leadership qualities. This test was failed spectacularly.

Hence the leadership vacuum that provided Malema the much-needed impetus to his political comeback trail.

The leadership did not have an answer to Malema’s political astuteness (or is it opportunism, as some would like us to believe?) so our country is currently under a de facto state of emergency where the police have been given licence to violate, with impunity, the constitutional rights of South Africans.

The not-so-insignificant violation of Malema’s right to association and freedom of speech by being denied the opportunity to address the striking Lonmin workers is another factor to consider.

Is it not another attempt at muzzling a political irritation that stands in the way of recovering lost political ground?

The consistent leaking of the stages of Malema’s criminal investigations, coupled with reports of his “imminent arrest”, which was compounded by the leaking of a provisional report of the Public Protector, only serves
to strengthen the case for an alleged political motive.

Does this point to the court of public opinion being in session?

How unfortunate, as all these events combine to further erode the legitimacy of the ANC government.

Given the above developments and consideration being accorded to the ever-present “elephant in the room”, the ANC’s upcoming elective conference in Mangaung where the stakes are extraordinarily high, those who are pronouncing political conspiracy should not be faulted.

We can only hope they are wrong but the signs (of a government becoming intolerant to opposing views) do not give South Africans that much comfort.

And it would be naïve, if not outright suicidal, to ignore the desperate cries, no matter how fringe they might sound. Political conspiracy or not, let us not ignore the danger signs.

The real test is how far we are prepared to go in defence of the rights of those we differ with or even hate.

Hopefully, we will pass this test and the Malema matter will be unravelled.

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