Give Malema a break

Posted on February 7, 2011 By John Dobson

It's not every day that one has some empathy for Fabiani's favourite son, Julius Malema. But with the predictably shrill reaction to his comments at the opening of Kenny Kunene's ZAR nightclub last weekend, I do.

It seems to be slightly impish, if not biased, to take his statements absolutely literally.  But, as the classified ad says: "WANTED – anything to hang Malema with".

I am sure when he says it is an ANC nightclub he does not mean that it hosts NEC meetings with Gwede Mantashe poring over account figures with half-moon glasses, enquiring: "So how is our nightclub doing? Should we not be having foam parties on Wednesdays?"

The human sushi platters are degrading to women – but they are just as degrading as draping women over the bonnets of F1 cars (if they have bonnets) and cheering a bikini-clad number on perilous stilettos parading around a ring at a boxing event at Carnival City. But somehow the latter two examples seem to be far more palatable to a large portion of our population than King Kenny's behaviour. Why do we reserve this vitriol and hatred for Kenny and Juju?

Taking Julius's comments literally is naughty - including his statement that Helen Zille won't close his nightclub at 2am.  It's okay for Ronnie Rex ofRonnie’s Down and Out Tavern and Dive in Long Street to say bugger Zille and her new laws, and Malema's comments would be funny were he not so demonised.

In a funny way I think that if you look at Malema's comments figuratively (don't laugh), there is something Biko-esque about them – in his refusal to be defined by what he views as some old-world, old-order paradigm. He is saying that they should not apologise for their success, their power, their wealth as he lurches hand in hand with King Kenny clutching a bottle of Mumm.

If you were to ask the majority of white South Africa, they would accuse Kenny of being nothing more than a probably corrupt, ex-con, BEE fatcat. It irks them to see him flashing such obscene wealth, never mind that he made so good so quickly after the horrors that he experienced at Grootvlei prison; horrors that you would not wish upon many.

We think that he is benefitting from affirmative action and BBBEE. But remember that affirmative action and race-based economic empowerment are far from new concepts. The nationalist government introduced it with great vigour in the 1950s, as they purged the civil service of English speakers and created a very wealthy Afrikaner super class. That was okay then, but now that black people do it, it isn't.

We react with mass faintings and boundless cynicism when we read of a corrupt deal or a DG under investigation, but not so when we read of collusion among the construction companies (basically white with the requisite empowerment element) to build the Gautrain and a few stadia.

In essence they have taken government money, raised by your taxes, and filled their pockets. Blade would have to stay several decades at the Mount Nelson to match what they are alleged to have taken.

The point is that it is exactly the same money that the corrupt officials fill their boots with, but in a funny way it's okay because it is corporate South Africa, not a government official.

But no, it's not okay. Until we have a culture where the corruptor is more guilty than the corruptee we will have problems. But more importantly, we have to stop the double standards that are so often hysterical, stereotyped and race-based.

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