Why is the media so pre-occupied with Julius Malema? Why do journalists, including myself, write reams and reams about everything he says? I mean, the man is not a public servant. He does not serve in government. For all intents and purposes, he’s just an ordinary citizen, like you and me. But is he?
One of the reasons the media is so pre-occupied with Malema is his perceived influence in the ANC and especially his relationship with our President. Whether this is true or not is not the issue. It is all about perception.
Much has been made of the fact that Malema could have used his position to the benefit of companies with which he is linked. He could have used his influence to help these companies procure government tenders. This is seen as an unfair advantage.
My point is this: is that not what business is about? You use your connections to get work for your companies. After all, a major part of being in business depends on who and not what you know. If Malema is guilty, is this not what everybody in business is doing in any case?
When BEE first became a reality, many big companies rushed to get people on board who had good connections in government. And this is how people such as Cyril Ramaphosa, Tokyo Sexwale, Patrice Motsepe and a handful of others, who did not have a lot of business experience, but had plenty of government connections, suddenly became successful business people and, at the same time, very rich.
So, my question again, is what young Julius is doing, in any way different to what his senior comrades have been doing for years?
Even someone like Mac Maharaj, with his impeccable struggle credentials, was recruited onto the FNB board. Was it because of his business acumen? No, it was because he was seen to be politically connected to the correct people.
This is the ugly side of the relationship between government and business. Business realises that government is one of the biggest, if not the biggest dispenser, of major contracts and that is why it is necessary to be close to government if you’re in business.
So, if Malema can help them boost their sales, etc, then business will be interested in him.
So, my point is that if Malema is guilty of abusing his position, then so should those business people associated with him and those government officials who give work to companies linked to him. Just a thought.