Julius Malema. Picture: ALAISTER RUSSELL
Julius Malema. Picture: ALAISTER RUSSELL

The sight of Donald Trump’s cabinet, from his vice-president down, scrambling to swear on TV that it wasn’t them who called their boss reckless and amoral reveals that there is more paranoia in the White House than in our halls of power during the Zuma delinquency.

The difference is that many in the ANC who abased themselves to shield "Number One" had previously shown great courage and sacrificed much. The fall, therefore, was all the greater. The fact that most have again switched loyalties points to the problem President Cyril Ramaphosa faces in imposing a coherent policy. The ANC remains a hydra-headed behemoth of rival interests — communists, capitalists, traditional leaders, careerists and looters.

If the main opposition party, for example, made such a drawn-out localised hash of deposing their own mayor of Cape Town, it is legitimate to ask how the DA would cope with conflicts that would arise in running SA.

To enforce unity, the Zuma option was to command sufficient patronage to buy consciences; the Ramaphosa route is to work towards consolidating his personal power unequivocally. Until then, the president has to pander to all factions.

But first during the Zuma dereliction and now in the current vacuum, a previously detached tail (the EFF) appears to be wagging the whole ANC dog, principally on the issue of land. The result is that as SA staggers into recession and unemployment spirals there is an alarming poverty of real alternatives.

If the main opposition party, for example, made such a drawn-out localised hash of deposing their own mayor of Cape Town, it is legitimate to ask how the DA would cope with conflicts that would arise in running SA.

Meanwhile, Helen Zille can’t refrain from shallow Twitter spats over the pros and cons of colonialism. Recently she twittered sarcastically to a critic of colonialism, "Then let’s scrap the constitution." Pardon?

Our former colonial power, Britain, prides itself in not having a written constitution at all. Or was she thinking of the 1910 South Africa Act, which excluded blacks and entrenched white supremacy? Rather than slugging it out in 280 characters, when Zille retires she should write a book where she could develop a sustained argument. For now her focus should be on her day job and strength: proving that the DA can run a province ably and honestly, thus attracting new adherents to the party. Alas, Zille mostly makes it into the national news these days via her bizarre weakness for Twitter.

Indeed, perhaps the decolonisation fracas has got the focus back to front; for it is the more regressive whites whose minds need to be decolonised first.

AfriForum reveals itself as too bigoted to be able to present an honest argument on the land question, self-righteously not caring that its approach offends even potential allies. It gloated about its "success" in getting Fox News to label Ramaphosa a "racist" and repeat "alternative facts": that along with the mass killing of white farmers, the constitution has already been changed.

This was repeated in that now infamous tweet by Donald Trump. Yet why be amazed at The Donald’s ignorance when AfriForum prides itself on disinformation and historical illiteracy?

All this allows the EFF to hijack much of what passes for public debate, mostly because this party yells louder and more malevolently than anyone else.

The EFF indulges in the politics of theatre, with all the trappings of fascism: uniforms, a charismatic leader, threats, bluster, insults, violence and disruption.

Lack of consistency may well be a deliberate ploy. Fascism has historically been happy to steal promiscuously from socialism and capitalism because its main policy is based on another index altogether: not class, but race.

The EFF is blatantly anti-white and anti-Indian. Then in August Julius Malema claimed that white right-wingers were being trained to be snipers by Jews. This charlatan will leave no prejudice unturned in his pursuit of power. The EFF appears to lack a moral centre and, like fascists everywhere, merely aims to create chaos to be able to offer itself as the stabiliser, the antidote to the very disorder it created.

My own hunch is that Malema plots to become such an irritant to the governing party that, with votes he could bring with him, he is reeled back into the ANC by the offer of a fat job.

In clichéd old Hollywood westerns a gnarled Native American warrior regularly muttered: "White man speak with forked tongue."

Dissembling, however, knows no race. Thus in style if not in pigment, ironically the politician Malema most resembles is the president of the US: blustering, reckless and amoral.

• Rostron is a journalist and author.