One of the greatest tragedies about South African society is how entrenched mob psychology is. Our retreat from engaging objectively on matters of racial antagonisms has resulted in the naturalisation of opinionated prejudice and a herd mentality. But more than that, it has resulted in the tendency to shift from fundamental questions as we employ our energies on vilifying folk devils that are a creation of moral panic, which is largely fuelled by the media. While Malema is not necessarily an angel with a shining halo, he is also not the monster he is projected as and in fact, he is one of the young people with the greatest potential to re-write the narrative of the oppressed black majority in this country. But to understand the vital role Malema has played and is yet to play, we must first understand black not as subjects of political and media chess, but as a people with a history that has shaped our collective consciousness.
By the time I met Cyril Ramaphosa in 1992, he was Nelson Mandela’s choreographer at the negotiations that would eventually bring three centuries of white dominion to a thrilling and relatively peaceful end. Every day a polyglot, multiparty assembly — of former prisoners and their onetime oppressors, Communists and Bantustan autocrats and Afrikaner nationalists and union militants — mingled in a conference center outside Johannesburg to discuss what would be, in effect, the terms of surrender.