Jacob Zuma’s rise to power has unleashed a torrent of rash, boorish, misogynistic and inciteful speech from politicians and commentators. In this regard, the utterances of ANC Youth League’s Julius Malema and ex-columnist Eric Miyeni come to mind. Why has public discourse plumbed to such depths of late? How serious is the problem and what can be done about it?
In 2009, the South African Communist Party (SACP) warned against the emergence of what it described as a proto-fascist tendency in the ruling alliance, where elements were expressing views that, if left unchecked, could mature into fascism. Clearly, the party was referring to the Youth League under Malema’s leadership.
The SACP argued that while it lacked a coherent ideological outlook, this political tendency is driven by sections of the Black Economic Empowerment (BEE) elite who are desperate to capture parts of the state to bail out BEE capital in the wake of the recession.
According to the SACP, this BEE tendency has been developing an axis of influence between themselves and marginalised, alienated and unemployed youths who are open to populist mobilisation.