When politicians bicker, ancestors play their part

No sooner had Gachagua mocked Malema for blackouts in SA, one hit Kenya

In Summary

• Malema found himself under fire after slamming Kenya for fawning King's welcome

Image: OZONE

Even as I maintain my agnosticism about religion and other superstitions, I sometimes feel I could be convinced to look deeper into traditional African spirituality, especially when it comes to the powers ascribed to ancestors.

During the recent rugby World Cup, for instance, there was a jokey meme doing the rounds ahead of the England-SA game. It featured portraits of Queen Elizabeth II and President Nelson Mandela, who, if you follow ancestor worship, are both now considered ancestors on account of being both dead.

The meme said the stronger ancestor would prevail, and when the South Africans beat the British (by the skin of their teeth, but a win is a win), a new meme came out, celebrating Madiba as the stronger ancestor.

Just recently in Kenya, the South African ancestors once again proved they are not to be trifled with.

This was after the Commander-in-Chief of South Africa’s third-largest parliamentary party, the Economic Freedom Fighters' Julius Malema, spoke at the inauguration of Lukenya University’s Pan African Institute in Makueni, only to be attacked by Kenya’s Deputy President Rigathi Gachagua.

Malema, who styles himself as a “revolutionary activist for radical change in Africa”, appears to have once seen some potential for an ideological meeting of minds with President Willam Ruto.

It’s not surprising that Malema would do this. After all, there are certain very loosely superficial similarities between the two men.

At one time, both were members of the youth wing of liberation movement political parties. President Ruto was in the leadership of the short-lived Youth for Kanu (YK’92) group, which was later cast aside by its patron, President Daniel arap Moi.

For his part, Malema was elected president of the historically important ANC Youth League in 2008. He led the organisation, seen as one of the traditional stepping stones to ANC national leadership, until he was expelled from the party in 2012.

Both Malema’s ANCYL and Ruto’s YK’92 were launching grounds for political careers as well as ground zero for politically connected young people to start their journeys to fame, or at least infamy, and fortune.

But there the vague similarities end. Malema, who has been accused of  living a champagne lifestyle, has always pursued a determinedly left-wing agenda in his politics. President Ruto, on the other hand, has oscillated like a political pendulum.  

He moved from the rapaciously capitalist YK’92 to the mainstream of the ideologically indeterminate Kanu, and later to the decidedly centre-left and populist ODM, after which he again decamped to the power-driven Jubilee Alliance, before ending up at the right-wing and populist UDA.

So when Malema said he was finding it difficult to ideologically locate our President these days, perhaps he was referring to the constant shifts in ideology.

While in Kenya, Malema tore a strip off the Kenya government under President Ruto for its recent obsequious welcome of the British monarchy and all that it stands for.

In his talk, Malema, who, like the co-founder of the ANCYL and later president of the ANC and of South Africa, Nelson Mandela, was heavily influenced by the Kenya Land Freedom Army’s war against colonial domination, wondered how the descendants of anti-colonial freedom fighters could now kowtow to their former masters.

The moment he uttered those criticisms, I knew Malema would find himself targeted by UDA stalwarts. The reporter in me forlornly hoped that the response would make an attempt at intellectual rigour. I was, of course, sorely disappointed.

It seems all Gachagua could muster was a crack about Malema being from a country burdened with rolling power blackouts, which they euphemistically refer to as load shedding.

I guess DP Gachagua, who has previously gone on record referring to himself as the Son of Mau Mau (aka the Kenya Land Freedom Army) veterans, could not honestly find fault with Malema’s criticisms of the Kenya government’s sycophancy to the British monarchy and the West in general.

Anyway, almost as soon as the DP put the issue of South Africa’s power crisis into play, Kenya’s power grid suffered a huge crisis, plunging most of the country into darkness. If you ask me, those were the SA ancestors retaliating on behalf of their son, Malema.

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