Who won in the Malema, Mbalula twar? No one really, but we all lost

2014 SONA SPEECH DEBATE

2014 SONA SPEECH DEBATE

Twitter can be a pretty tricky thing when you’re a politician, just ask Helen Zille. It can be difficult enough to come off looking good when you’re involved in robust political debate (it’s why so many public figures have trained professionals manage your accounts), but when you’re bickering over a Louis Vuitton belt there can be no winners.

Despite having been actively involved in politics for some years now, that thought clearly didn’t cross the minds of former ANC Youth League heads Julius Malema and Fikile Mbalula when they took to the social platform to do exactly that.

Okay okay, there was a little more to it than that. Mbalula, who is now South Africa’s sports minister, called out Malema for wearing a red overall in parliament, while wearing Louis Vuitton outside of parliament.

The overall Mbalula was referring to is the uniform of the Economic Freedom Fighters, the opposition party Malema heads and helped form in the run up to the country’s 2014 general election.

The Twitter war appears to have carried on over a number of days, starting when Malema retweeted Mbalula bragging about being on a cruise ship. Things really got interesting though after Malema’s appearance outside the Polokwane High Court yesterday after his racketeering case was postponed until August next year:

Was the interaction entertaining to watch? Undoubtedly. Was there any real political point-scoring? Probably not. While the story is a useful distraction from the various charges being faced by Malema and the excesses of Mbalula’s own lavish lifestyle, it also contains reminders of both.

Then again, neither of those things have ever seemed to hamper either of their political careers. Both are have made their names by being the most vocal thorns in the side of whoever they choose to come up against and they’ve won a lot of political capital that way. When they come up against each other though, their respective flaws are only magnified. Add in their past closeness and any argument starts to seem less about the issues at hand and more about personal grudges (the content of the tweets hardly diminishes that impression).

And what about the good people of Twitter and the people who read the stories about the interaction? As I’ve already pointed out, it was pretty entertaining so there’s that. Scratch a little deeper though and all you get is another reminder that two of the most popular South African politicians on Twitter are very much not statesmen.

Image: GovernmentZA via Flickr.

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