An Inconvenient Youth: Julius Malema and the ‘New’ ANC

In This Review

An Inconvenient Youth: Julius Malema and the ‘New’ ANC
by Fiona Forde
Picador Africa, 2011
274 pp.
Purchase

Close to two decades of majority rule in South Africa have improved the welfare of its black citizens. But the country’s level of economic inequality remains among the highest in the world; worse, wealth correlates uncomfortably with race, with whites controlling a hugely disproportionate share of assets and income. Forde’s biography of Julius Malema, a rising populist firebrand, demonstrates that resentment of this racial inequality has long festered among the black population, providing ambitious politicians with a temptingly easy path to political notoriety. Forde portrays Malema as the most skillful of these politicians and documents his rapid rise to power, from a childhood of poverty through the ranks of the African National Congress, where he served as president of the Youth League -- until the party suspended him from that post last year after he was convicted of hate speech against whites. Forde portrays the ANC as an increasingly flabby organization that is losing the legitimacy necessary to prevent the racialist demagoguery in which Malema dabbles. At the same time, her finely grained portrait of Malema makes clear that he is more interested in power than in redressing historical inequities.