From Trump to Malema, this is the age of the hypocrite
As he shouts pay back the money but finds a cushy lifestyle for himself, Malema is echoing a global trend
The year 2018 has been the year of the political hypocrite.
Take Julius Malema, the leader of the indignantly and loudly pro-poor Economic Freedom Fighters. His wife reportedly lives in a sumptuous flat in Johannesburg in a complex owned by an alleged tobacco smuggler. He doesn’t see anything wrong with this. He tells us that he fears for the lives of his children. If he fears for the safety of his children perhaps they should not be living in a controversial alleged tobacco smuggler’s house, no? Malema is deflecting and we would be fools to agree with this nonsense. The arrangement stinks to high heaven.
The “commander in chief” (that’s Malema’s official title at the EFF – doesn’t it remind you of Idi Amin, who called himself “His Excellency President for Life, King of Scotland, Lord of All the Beasts of the Earth and Fishes of the Sea and Conqueror of the British Empire in Africa in General and Uganda in Particular”?) is part of a global phenomenon of lies and hypocrisy in politics. We now live in a world where politicians glibly compare themselves to Che Guevara and Thomas Sankara at rallies, soaking up the adulation of the poor and desperate, while at home they lead lives akin to that of the ultra-corrupt late Nigerian dictator Sani Abacha.
That is the hypocrisy of Malema and Floyd Shivambu. In their red overalls and the gargantuan words they crib hours before a parliamentary debate, they shout at Jacob Zuma: “Pay back the money! Pay back the money!”
In the night they have their palms held out to be the first to take, and take again, from the poor of VBS Mutual Bank and from tobacco smugglers. Champions of the poor? Please. We weren’t born yesterday.
One of the biggest international stories of our time will be that of Jamal Khashoggi, the Washington Post columnist murdered in cold blood by the Saudi Arabian government. The Saudis lured him to their consulate in Turkey, tortured him, killed him, dismembered his body and then lied to the world that he had left their building.
We know what happened to him because the Turkish government exposed the entire operation to journalists. The Turkish president, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, moved heaven and earth to ensure that the truth was known about what really happened to Khashoggi. What a hero!
Actually, not. Erdogan is himself a hypocrite and a villain. Erdogan’s government has more journalists in prison than any other country in the world. There are 68 journalists languishing in his jails right now. Their crime? Reporting the truth to the people.
In the US, every week, you want to laugh and cry at the same time at the sheer hypocrisy that has become pervasive in politics. Just last week US President Donald Trump’s national security adviser John Bolton unveiled the US’s Africa strategy. Bolton was quoted as saying: “This administration will not allow hard-earned taxpayer dollars to fund corrupt autocrats, who use the money to fill their coffers at the expense of their people, or commit gross human rights violations.”
You would have been forgiven for falling off your chair if you were in the room listening to Bolton speak. He said all this with an absolutely straight face just three weeks after his boss, Trump, refused to condemn or even raise a tiny voice against Saudi Arabia for a gross human rights violation: Luring Khashoggi, torturing him, murdering him, dismembering his body and covering up his murder.
It’s just one example of the hypocrisy, the cynicism, that today underpins politics across the globe. I should not be surprised? When a democracy and human rights icon such as Aung San Suu Kyi of Myanmar keeps quiet when thousands of Rohingya Muslims are raped, exiled and murdered then there is very little to say except that, in the ongoing war on principle and good governance, the hypocrites are winning.
Malema and Shivambu’s actions are not at all an aberration. They are singing from exactly the same hymn sheet that Trump, Jair Bolsonaro of Brazil, Viktor Orban of Hungary and others of their ilk are singing from. They take their shameless, journalist-baiting, oligarch-embracing cue from Vladimir Putin and others. It is their age; the age of the hypocrite. For now, they are on the ascendant.
But for how long? I still believe that things will turn towards the principled and the ethical. But we will be in this dark tunnel for a while yet.