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'Stupid' leaders sometimes become powerful

By unknown | Oct 08, 2009 | COMMENTS [ 0 ]

SOME time ago someone (in the media, I guess) started the false rumour that Julius Malema is a dunderhead moron.

SOME time ago someone (in the media, I guess) started the false rumour that Julius Malema is a dunderhead moron.

The rumour has spread so fast and wide that nobody is pausing to question its veracity. Is the man stupid or reckless?

It all started around the time when the firebrand youth leader made the sensational claim that he and his followers would "kill for Zuma".

He was subsequently forced to apologise, albeit reluctantly.

But Ju-ju Baby was not done yet. He followed up with clanger after clanger, never failing to amaze and excite.

He said (now President) Jacob Zuma's alleged rape victim had had a good time; told former president Thabo Mbeki to his face he was "the main problem with this country"; DA leader Hellen Zille has stacked her cabinet with her boyfriends and a whole lot of unpalatable things.

While all this was happening, someone leaked what were said to be Malema's matric results, which revealed that he had performed pathetically in woodwork and mathematics. In mitigation, I suppose there are many brilliant leaders who are not good carpenters and are hopeless at figures.

Lately, Malema has leapt to Caster Semenya's defence and wagged a threatening finger at Nedbank for withdrawing its sponsorship of athletics in the country.

All that (and more) might be careless speak, disrespectful, arrogant, reckless, tactless, insensitive ... but it is not stupid.

But then, "stupid" leaders sometimes become powerful presidents. Uganda's Idi Amin was one such.

The story goes that once, when Uganda was facing a serious financial crisis, Amin declared: "What do you mean there's no money? We have lots of paper, lots of ink ... print more money!"

If Malema is "stupid", what would today's generation make of one Patrick Mphephu, a now departed president of the make-believe Republic of Venda?

Stories about Mphephu's gaffes are legendary. He wore oversized tuxedo suits, a clown's hat and thick-rimmed glasses that made you wonder what had damaged his eyes because he was unschooled - it was not like he had read stacks of books.

When he could not remember the right word, he called the finance minister "the Minister of Money", the minerals and energy minister "Minister of Lights" and foreign affairs minister "Minister of Overseas".

The one faux pas that shot him into instant infamy was when he was interviewed on TV about the possibility of Venda opting for independence.

Mphephu answered glibly: "Transkei did it. Bophuthatswana did it. So why can't we did it?"

Then came the occasion when he was interviewed about the economy of his homeland.

"Who says Venda is poor? We have bananas, we have paw-paws, and we have ten-rand-million."

Not very clever, hey?


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