Sunday, September 7, 2008

Hooligans-Verbal Hooligans-Unintelligent and infantile.

Say it with a sting.....
Verbal hooligans...
by Xolani Mbanjwa
September 06 2008 at 03:13PM

While the insults remain, the hallmark grammatical errors, spelling mistakes and childish literals have dramatically vanished from the many and varied statements of the ANC Youth League.

The change is certainly not attributable to eloquence on the part of ANC Youth League president Julius Malema, a Unisa dropout. On the contrary, his statements have for the most part been unintelligent and infantile.

His predecessor, Fikile Mbalula, was renowned for similarly pedestrian, street-fighter language.

Mbalula's role-model and former league president, Peter Mokaba, started this culture of reckless militancy and unintelligible, threatening statements.

Former Youth League spokesperson Zizi Kodwa was fond of issuing statements that, while harsh of sentiment, routinely flouted syntax



Kodwa now works in the office of ANC president Jacob Zuma.

So who has polished the league's statements?

Enter Floyd Nyiko Shivambu - a 25-year-old former SA Communist Party researcher.

Like the Youth League, Shivambu recently made headlines by hurling insults at ANC deputy president Kgalema Motlanthe, who is old enough to be his father.

"[Motlanthe] came to the Youth League and we engaged him on a proper platform. He raised most of those things, calling us reckless and saying we are not behaving in a manner that we should be conducting our communication.

"We were shocked when he went to the media and discussed us in that particular fashion. We had to respond when he attacked us to show that this is not a sustainable way of engaging with the [league]," says the shy but stubborn Shivambu.

Motlanthe took the more dignified path and did not respond to the attack.

Motlanthe isn't the only big name in Shivambu's sights. Last year, he tried to take on a top ANC intellectual, Joel Netshitenzhe, at a debate at the Wits Business School.

Netshitenzhe niftily exposed Shivambu's ignorance and lack of political maturity.

However, those who know Shivambu say he is very sharp, hence his recent appointment to speak for the Youth League.

Shivambu concedes that the league needs to review the way it communicates with the public.

He says the trick is not to use "parables" to get message across.

"We accept that we need to project most of our messages in a manner that will be acceptable to the whole of society.

"I'm sure we're going to have higher levels of clarity in how we communicate most of our messages," says Shivambu, who insists that ordinary people understand what the league's leadership intend to convey.

He blames the media and the "middle-class" for taking out of context Malema's infamous utterances to "kill for Zuma" and says they did this to protect their own interests.

"We're not going to use the word 'kill' again. It was inconsistent with the manner in which we speak, and the president of the ANC [Zuma] accepted our explanation that we're not going to do anything unconstitutional in his defence.

"But people have not engaged the Youth League. They just stand on the side and assume what is happening in the league," says Shivambu.

However, Zuma is the central theme of their militancy, or what some call recklessness.

Shivambu insists that the league will stop at nothing to see Zuma elected as the country's next president.

"We're sure that he [Zuma] is the incoming president of the Republic. We will remove all the obstacles, even if it means removing resistant people who are agents of political persecution.

"This is a political case, which was highly questionable from the beginning. It must be permanently struck from the roll. That will bring stability in the country because it's not in the interest of the country for the case to continue," he says.

The young spokesperson laments that the ANC is being "demonised" by people who are fighting over financial and political resources through the provincial leadership contests.

"There are lots of reasons why there are contestations. Some reasons are ideological differences, battles for political resources and financial resources.

"But other genuine reasons are about who people think is better to lead us in the provinces. Contestation is healthy but it becomes problematic when people become violent and display disruptive tendencies in support of certain candidates," says Shivambu.

Being Youth League spokesperson might place him in the hot seat at times, but Shivambu cut his teeth in student politics with the South African Students' Congress (Sasco) while studying international relations and politics at the University of the Witwatersrand.

He was appointed a board member of the National Student Financial Aid Scheme, a government-funded bursary loan scheme.

Critics point out that Malema was never in Sasco, hence his political immaturity.

Shivambu also represents the youth on the Joint Initiative on Priority Skills Acquisition (Jipsa) team.

He is the fourth of six children and was raised in the village of Malamulele in Limpopo.

His youth means he is part of the post-1990 "free generation" who joined politics out of choice and are shaping the direction of old liberation movements such as the SACP and ANC.

Although critics see this generation as ungrounded and politically unsophisticated, it has introduced a new mindset and at least rattled the old ideologues.

One such is Young Communist League leader Buti Manamela, who had sharp exchanges with President Thabo Mbeki after the president questioned his knowledge about "monopoly capital" at the ANC policy conference last year.

Manamela and Shivambu joined the SACP after recruitment restrictions were lifted, allowing anyone to join - even those who have never read a single paragraph of Marx's Das Kapital.

Shivambu, who regards the assassinated communist leader Chris Hani as his greatest inspiration, says his move from being the SACP's national co-ordinator of policy development and research to the Youth League was hassle-free.

He feels at home in the ANC's youth wing, where he is a national executive committee member responsible for political education, policy and research.

He is also project manager of the Chris Hani Institute - a leftist think-tank and research hub.

His intellectual influence has put a literate stamp on the style of the Youth League's media statements, but the substance remains rather less than erudite, reflecting the club of radical foul-mouthed youths whose credentials are counted in terms of the number of insults hurled a day.

But, if the past is anything to go by, a stint as a verbal hooligan isn't a bad thing for one's career prospects.

After all, former Youth League president Malusi Gigaba is today the deputy minister of home affairs, while the biggest roarer of all, Mokaba, had a stint in the national executive.


This article was originally published on page 15 of The Star on September 06, 2008

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