Julius Malema's trip to Harare

ZANU PF must have felt a deep sense of smugness over Julius Malema's visit to Harare last week. The delinquent leader of South Africa's ruling ANC party addressed several rallies with Zanu PF officials before meeting with President Robert Mugabe. For the octogenarian leader, Malema's endorsement of his empowerment policies, the latest of which is a grab of the majority stake in all foreign-owned companies and those owned by local whites in Zimbabwe that are worth half a million US dollars and upwards, must have come as much-craved validation of his self-professed role as Southern Africa's foremost liberation leader. Apparently Malema is in Zimbabwe to study Mugabe's nationalisation and empowerment policies.

That Malema, a rabble-rousing youth leader who has divided opinion both in his own party and the country at large, should have been accorded the attention of a visiting head of state is illustrative of how crude populism, for Mugbe and Zanu, is a life-sustaining staple. Any morsel of solidarity is gobbled up with much relish.

More significantly, Malema's dismissal of the MDC as an irrelevant imperialist party speaks more to the delusion in which most of Southern Africa's liberation movements view post-nationalist parties in the region. The MDC is an organic social movement whose mass following was proved in the March 2008 elections.

Malema's failure to recognise the decay of Zanu PF as a progressive nationalist party on the one hand, and the rise of the MDC as a fixture on Zimbabwe's political landscape in which majority support reposes on the other, is indicative of the sense of entitlement with which Southern African liberation movements view their presence at the helm of the post-colonial/apartheid state. It is a serious contradiction in which is embedded huge potential for conflict and instability as all legitimate democratic contestations for state power are subverted in the name of preserving 'the people's revolution'.