Julius Malema, the enfant terrible of South Africa politics
Posted Saturday, April 7 2012 at 18:00
- The leader, popularly known as Juju, has become a thorn in the flesh of the party that provided him with his power base. The result has been suspension
Sporting sunglasses and smart, dark suits, the youthful politician walks around surrounded by a posse of mean-looking bodyguards.
Radical politics aside, Mr Malema loves attention whenever he puts his show on the road, and is hedonistic. When it comes to good living, when he takes to the highways, it is in the latest model luxury vehicles, many of them rarely seen on South African roads.
As for taking to the skies – which he often does – the enfant terrible of South African politics is not averse to making his jaunts around the country in flashy aircraft loaned out by well-endowed friends whose myriad business interests have allegedly benefited from association with him.
Reputed to be immensely wealthy, he has a thing for the limelight, whether social or political, and has over the years built a reputation for high living and serious partying, usually in the company of South Africa’s society beauties.
He is also said to have a predilection for designer products and chooses his accessories carefully, particularly watches. According to informed social scene watchers in South Africa, the flashy man has an apparent soft spot for the Breitler brand, and has, for a long time, sported impressive and fashionable time pieces, which acquired fame by normally adorning the wrists of Hollywood stars and pop idols.
An indicator of Malema’s class is that the model he has recently been flashing around costs a cool $17,000 (Sh1.4 million), which is probably loose change for a man whose expenditure is usually cited in the millions, whether in South African rand or US dollars. His residences are to be found in the most exclusive locations.
Mr Malema reportedly owns three properties – an ultramodern mansion in the Sandton district north of Johannesburg, another one in Polokwane and some urban prime real estate he allegedly paid for in cash. He is said to be choosy about his surroundings, and reportedly spares no expenses in ensuring total luxury in his living quarters.
In Johannesburg, for instance, he used to live in a mansion valued at R3.6 million (Sh36m). But, not content with that well-appointed residence, he reportedly decided to flatten it and build it anew. That process, closely monitored by cynical South African media, resulted in a brand-new pad whose value is estimated at R16 million (Sh160m).
Still unmarried, Mr Malema reportedly has a son on whom he dotes, and whose name, Ratanang, he also gave to a trust he set up.
In the meantime, his status as one of South Africa’s most eligible bachelors has made him the focus of many a seemly damsel, and it is little surprise that, at glittery social events, he always has one hanging from his arm, looking starry-eyed.
While the normally short-lived relationships last, the Malema girls are guaranteed luxurious living with no-holds barred. Ask Lizelle Tabane, 21, the comely university student reported to be his current focus of attention, with the duo often described by the gossip media as inseparable.
Already, her association with Mr Malema has seen her getting a decent dose of the stratospheric lifestyle he leads, including being flown out in a leased plane to attend a Malema buddy’s dreamland society wedding reception in Mauritius at the end of October 2011.
Given Mr Malema’s penchant for the good life, it is not surprising that his original mansion, located in the exclusive Sandton suburb, had gained notoriety for the disturbance long-suffering neighbours had to contend with courtesy of his regular, raucous parties.
But, while his flashy living has naturally placed the combative Malema in the limelight, and sometimes earned him some notoriety, his public profile has grown in recent times.
So, too, has his capacity for controversy, and it is not surprising that critics in the media have taken to describing him simply as a demagogue. That notwithstanding, and despite his reputation as a bare knuckle fighter, Mr Malema remains widely popular in some quarters, easily commanding huge crowds whenever he attends a political rally, and is widely revered by the younger generation.
On the flip side, Mr Malema, not famous for tact, has been on the record for numerous actions and declarations that have raised eyebrows even among the ranks of the most tolerant sections of South African society. He has particularly come up for barbs regarding his views on race relations and property and land ownership in the country.
While eliciting kudos from his wide youthful following, Mr Malema’s most provocative outbursts have continued to arouse widespread outrage amongst the more sober South Africans, who evidently find him an irritant. He is viewed by many as a reckless populist with the potential to destabilise South Africa and spark racial conflict.