Unrest grew in South Africa yesterday outside the disciplinary hearing for controversial political figure Julius Malema, the man at the center of the divide in South Africa’s ruling party the African National Congress and the country itself.
Protests against the corruption charges levied against Malema, the president of the ANC’s Youth League, soon turned violent, with police needing to resort to stun grenades and water cannons to control the crowd.
This outburst captures the growing unrest amongst South Africa’s young black community. The unemployment rate in the country skyrocketed to an astounding 24.8 percent last year, two-thirds of which are under the age of 35. The high school drop out rate is at 64 percent and 1000 people die daily because of HIV-related illness.
Because of this, a large section of the black population has fallen behind Malema in claiming that they have been unfairly treated in the 17 years after apartheid. For example, Malema demands that South Africa’s white farmers hand over their profits to the black community without compensation as well as maintaining that the economically huge mining sector be nationalized and used to support the poor.
Jacob Zuma, president of both South Africa and the ANC, fears that if Malema gets his way it could cripple the economy even further. Most political experts prognosticate that he should also fear Malema himself taking control of the party and country, as the common belief is that no one can gain control of the country in its current climate without Malema’s backing. (Zuma included as he had Malema’s backing when he was elected in 2009)
The charges of corruption being levied against Malema are serious, embezzeling money for personal gain, and if he gets thrown out of the party it is impossible to know what political ripples it will send throughout the already struggling country.