City Press reviews Julius vs The ANC

2017-04-23 11:01

Johannesburg - Miners Shot Down Emmy-awarded director Rehad Desai’s Julius vs the ANC, condenses five years of unpredictable South African politics into a 48-minute documentary using powerful footage that is quite disturbing to relive.

While none of the narratives that the documentary is built on reveals any new thoughts or arguments about the manifestation of one South Africa’s most popular political leaders, Julius Malema, the images used by Desai are quite powerful and difficult to watch. For a local audience, that’s where it will end.

The documentary starts by looking at one of the most violent attacks on South Africans by this government – the police killing 34 striking mine workers at Marikana in 2012.

Other scenes that are brought to the fore are the booing of President Jacob Zuma at former president Nelson Mandela’s funeral, the violent brawl in Parliament at the state of the nation address, the Constitutional Court’s finding that the president failed to uphold, defend and respect the Constitution, and then – what I found most painful to watch – the #FeesMustFall student protests.

During the municipal elections – and this I assumed was one of the points Desai wanted to highlight – the ANC lost four of the five biggest cities, shifting the voting patterns of urban South Africans since Zuma came to power. A surprising victor was the DA, more than Malema’s Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF). Desai asks whether the ANC is still the party of the people and, if not, what will replace it. It feels like that when he conceptualised this documentary, he expected that the EFF would do better and he was left disappointed. This is something that anyone who follows South African politics will sense as the documentary continues and you’re left with an, “Oh, okay” feeling at the end. But I can acknowledge that Malema makes for a great protagonist when exploring current South African politics and the subject of a political alternative – even though Malema is not interviewed by Desai, who uses archive clips.

Therefore, it’s disappointing that the documentary makes no real effort to interrogate whether Malema is a viable alternative for working class South Africans. While he starts by saying Malema made a concerted effort to address those ignored by the governing party, it doesn’t interrogate what the EFF and Malema have done since news-dominating events such as Marikana and #FeesMustFall. This means the film is quite a surface-based overview of the politics of Malema.

Malema and Zuma share popularity with the working class majority, and the documentary fails to explore which devil is better to dance with.

Professor Achille Mbembe, a political historian, who is interviewed by Desai, asks: “What kind of future do we want to create? And, in the name of that future, why is it important to destroy the existing dispensation?” This is something that Desai should have explored more in-depth to give greater context. Perhaps then this would’ve made for a better reflection of South Africa’s current political discourse. And Desai’s feminist critics will note that, once again, no women analysts feature in his new film.

See the promo here:

Julius vs the ANC will broadcast in over 100 countries on Wednesday. Tune in at 22:00 on Al Jazeera (DStv 406).

Read more on:    julius malema  |  documentary  |  tv

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