The sooner Julius Malema gets on the road to Damascus the better for him and his party. Without that transformation, he will continue to find himself taking part in schemes that leave black people suffering “like dogs”, writes Mpumelelo Mkhabela.

During the Jacob Zuma rape trial, Zizi Kodwa, then spokesman of the ANC Youth League, urged supporters of the accused to hit the dogs hard until their owners and handlers emerged. 

Kodwa made the remarks while addressing a crowd that had come out to support Zuma outside the High Court in Johannesburg. The dogs included all Zuma’s critics who had highlighted his scandals in an attempt to demonstrate he was not fit to govern. 

In 2006, Professor Njabulo Ndebele, one of the “dogs”, wrote a beautiful imaginary piece about the meaning of the dog in society. The piece is part of the collection of his must-read essays, Fine Lines from the Box

The first part of the piece depicts a violent society that Kodwa’s call in relation to dogs invoked. The cruelty to animals is directly linked to the general cruelty in society evidenced by violent crimes including xenophobic attacks.

The second part excavates the historical suffering of black people for decades and brings it to the fore as a harsh reminder that apartheid subjected them to inhumane treatment “like dogs”. In many ways they suffered like “dogs”. 

The third part of the piece transforms Kodwa into a well-meaning young man who makes mistakes. He otherwise loves dogs because they are, after all, peaceful and dependable creatures. 

This peaceful version of Kodwa encourages supporters to bring their dogs to court. “Perhaps if we stop brutalising the dog, if we stop brutalising ourselves whenever we invoke the cruel image of the dog we have created, we may recover our own humanity, which we lost along the way of our history,” the fictional Kodwa tells his supporters. The supporters start chanting: “Viva the dog!” They start hugging their dogs. Kodwa’s own puppy is so excited it starts licking his chin. The supporters also chant: “Awu leth’injayam/ uthath’umshini wakho”. (Bring me my dog; take your machine gun)

Ndebele calls on the reader to imagine this transformation of Kodwa and its meaning. “Who knows, we may come to thank Kodwa for starting a revolution he never intended: one that will occur the day South Africans reconnect with their humanity through a new and caring relationship with their dogs.” 

It is fascinating that 12 years later, the real Zizi Kodwa is defending Pravin Gordhan who has been called a “dog” by EFF leader Julius Malema.

At a demonstration outside the state capture commission of inquiry, Malema said Gordhan was a “dog of white monopoly capital” and the commission’s evidence leader, Paul Pretorius, was a “bastard”. In response, Kodwa, once the pacifist in Ndebele’s imagery, came out himself to describe what it means to be called a dog. “We think this is an element of what we call Trumpism and [it] in the main thrives on fear, hate, insults and vulgarity,” Kodwa, now one of the ANC’s spokespersons, remarked. “We must unite all South Africans, black and white, to defeat the demon of Trumpism because it undermines our democracy.” 

At the time when Kodwa called on Zuma’s supporters to hit the dogs until the handlers emerged, Malema was an aspirant leader of the ANC Youth League. He eventually became a leader, having been elected in a conference where people exposed their bums. And he has since grown politically to lead, as a commander-in-chief (no questions asked), of the third largest party in South Africa. 

But Malema has not undergone the transformation that Kodwa has. The sooner he gets on the road to Damascus the better for him and his party. Without that transformation, he might continue on the path where he finds himself taking part in schemes that leave black people suffering “like dogs”. 

The EFF’s economic policies of nationalising everything could leave South Africa in ruin. Imagine if the whole South Africa was run like VBS! We could suffer like dogs. Black people are already suffering “like dogs” right now thanks to the VBS corruption of which Malema and the EFF are alleged beneficiaries. 

You have to have a heart made of stone not to sympathise with the VBS depositors who have queued night and day outside VBS offices waiting and hoping against hope that they will get their money while the beneficiaries from various political parties are coming up with excuses. 

Until evidence proves otherwise, Gordhan is known to be one of the fiercest campaigners against state capture, theft of public resources and corruption. For that, he is called a “dog of white monopoly capital”. Malema says there is nothing wrong calling another politician a dog because it’s part of political speak.

Let’s say for a moment Malema is right and we can call politicians dogs. So, if Gordhan, for all his fight against corruption is the “dog of white monopoly capital”, whose “dog” is Julius Malema? 

By Mpumelelo Mkhabela

– Mkhabela is a political analyst with the Department of Political Sciences at the University of South Africa.

This article first appeared in News24.

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