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Hein Marais on “Political Experiment”, Julius Malema

South Africa Pushed to the LimitThink Africa Press asked several South Africans for their honest opinion on the ANCYL’s Julius Malema. Hein Marais, author of South Africa Pushed to the Limit: The Political Economy of Change, argues that Malema is a “political experiment”:

Julius Malema is neither an anomaly nor a flash-in-the-pan. Both lurid and “down-to-earth”, his populism draws on key themes of African nationalism, but blends them enigmatically into a politics that accommodates social conservatism, lumpen radicalism and grasping entitlement. Malema is a work-in-progress, and his politics – or more accurately, the political register in which he operates – constitutes a political experiment within the ruling African National Congress (ANC).

His prominence stems not simply from rank-and-file support in the ANC, but from the backing of powerful sections of the organization’s leadership. There are two, interlinked reasons for this. The ANC’s political and ethical moorings have grown doddery and indeterminate. It has a long tradition of functioning as a broad church of interests and political currents that orbit around a set of key, progressive principles and ideals. Over the past decade, though, those have grown increasingly fluid and indistinct, and the organization now functions much less as a coherent engine of change than as a zone in which motley, often conflicting, interests and ambitions can be pursued.

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