The African National Congress (ANC) governs with an infuriating torpor. A scandal over the failure to deliver school books? A crisis in the police? A series of strikes threatening to disillusion much-needed investors once and for all? South Africa’s ruling party obfuscates, splutters and then sets up its umpteenth committee of review. In due course a policy paper is delivered, sometimes, to be fair, with telling insights. But these proposals are seldom implemented. Such, for several years, was the ANC’s ostrich-like approach to the rise and rise of the dyspeptic young populist Julius Malema, the first politician to shatter the ANC’s post-apartheid consensus.
But when the ANC decides to turn on a dissenter it does so with dizzying speed. So it has proved finally with ‘Juju’, the 32-year-old former head of the party’s Youth League. After several years of embarrassing the government with his incendiary rhetoric, he was first suspended and then expelled from the party. His irregular finances have been dragged into the public spotlight – a treatment long overdue for quite a few of the party’s bigwigs. Last year he was charged with fraud and money-laundering. At the end of February, in a final humiliation, his household possessions went under the hammer to pay an outstanding tax bill of 16 million rand. Televisions, fridges, furniture and a grand piano were all sold. A wine farm was also due to be flogged off – quite an