Steinberg on Malema

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JonnyJonny Steinberg, the award winning South African writer and recent appointment to the teaching team at the African Studies Centre here at Oxford University, has joined the debate on Julius Malema with an insightful article in the Guardian.

Jonny’s analysis connects nicely with the recent blog post we ran on Malema’s suspension from the ANC, in which SJ Cooper-Knock and Janice Winter explored what the future has in store for “Juju”, the Youth League, and the ruling party.

In the article, Jonny eloquently argues that whether or not Malema returns to political prominence is beside the point; he has already transformed the political landscape, introducing a strain of populism that the political establishment is poorly placed to control.  In other words, Malema has already unleashed a genie that cannot be put back in its bottle and as a result his legacy will live on irrespective of his personal fortunes.

As Jonny puts it: ‘ On 8 January, the ANC held its centenary celebrations in a large sports stadium in the provincial town of Bloemfontein. Despite his suspension, Malema sat among the VIPs. When his presence was announced on the public address system, the roar was deafening. The party elders gathered on the stage would have immediately imbibed what that roar meant. It did not mean that Malema had sufficient support to set up a rival party outside the ANC. The old liberation movement’s reputation remains much too formidable for that. What the roar meant was that South Africans have acquired a taste for the new brand of volatile populism Malema has brought to national politics. Malema himself may disappear for now, but he has shown future pretenders in the ANC a new way of acquiring power. There is little doubt that his brand of politics will return.’

For the full text of Jonny’s article, click here

For Jonny’s profile and a list of his publications, click here

For our original blog post, click here

For a discussion of populism in Africa, click here

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