Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Judgement on Malema ?

Are we doing enough to stem the tide of rape and abuse ? How committed are we ? Is fine to lash out at Malema and the president, but what about the rest of us? Yesterday's judgement by the Equality Court on the matter of Sonke Gender Justice Network vs Mr Julius Malema is hopeful, but also it raises a few critical, disturbing questions.

We should again, note our appreciation for our judicial system. This judgement is a clear signal that our courts, by and large, still serves to defends and protects the dignity of all people, irrespective of status, class, gender, etc. This is hopeful. It builds upon our Constitution, which states, ' and Everyone is equal before the law...''Everyone has inherent dignity...' But its not as simple as that.

Of course, I cannot make any pronouncements on the legalise and whether the judgement was fair or not. My understanding is that Malema's legal team is working on an appeal and, in following in the footsteps of his president, we can assume that this matter will go all the way to the Constitutional Court.There is nothing illegal about that. My comments here are of a different nature. It relates to understanding the Malema-phenomenon. Who created this image and for what purpose ? Is he really so out of character with the rest of us ? Or is he perhaps the scapegoat ? We pack on him all our hidden dark secrets and chase him in the desert as an atonement. Of course, these questions calls for a more substantial investigation. I'm simply raising questions. 

It is significant that the judge considers Malema to be someone who commands 'significant social and political influence and particularly over young people'. I've refered to this adoration, in a previous post. Who are these young people and how does Malema's public role influence their norms and values ? Malema, according to the evidence presented in this case, argued that his comments need to be seen within the context of him pursuading and mobilising young people towards an ANC victory. With these comments he is motivating young people to join his campaign. He is the president of the ANCYL. The ANC alliance scored a resounding victory at the poles last year, after his campaigning. So he must know something about these voters or like many fine savvy marketers would say: he knows his market, his target audience-just look at the numbers.

He also argued, that his party promotes the advancement of women and specifically black women. He will never promote hatred against women. Afterall, he explained, he himself was mentored by a few and raised by his grandmother. We don't know who these seemingly older women are, but one can asume that he holds their lives and examples in high esteem.There is a particular understanding of women and gender, at work here, that undergird his public persona.

Further, and this is significant, as his audience were tertiary students at the Cape Peninsula Technikon, he testified that his audience 'cheered him on with loud applause'. His assessment is that his audience, did not percieve his speech as particularly 'hurtful or harmful'. Malema is often invited to speak at tertiary institutions and, if anything his speeches are raising his profile amongst a fair percentage of tertiary students, in South Africa. Why? Who is it that continue to invite him and hold him in high esteem?

Yes, I know that the court also heard from an expert witness, Ms Lisa Vetten, that Malema's utterances were based on 'generalisations' about women, rape and consent, and that those in power, like Malema often, create and proclaim myths and stereotypes, which distort reality, but also entrench the lies and domination, of men. The court also found that his comments 'ammount to hate speech and harrasment'. The questions however remain, disturbing. This judgement cannot be the final word.
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