Malema as South Africa’s emergent shining star
At age 38, Julius Sello Malema, the Commander-in-Chief of Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF), a maverick political party in the Republic of South Africa, has shown that the age of Methuselah and Solomon’s wisdom are remote and mutually exclusive.
Further, within the barely six years of EFF, which he midwifed, Malema has affected the politics of South Africa in very radical ways. His voice continues to sound in high octave notes as the voice of reason, black solidarity, and patriotic zeal for the Rainbow nation.
What he says has a way of sounding like a cannon and capturing the attention of people of good conscience. His stance in the recent bouts of xenophobic attacks echoed his usual divergent and clear-headed steadiness in calling the bluff of pedestrian whims.
“By the time they are done with Zimbabweans, Nigerians and other foreigners, they will come for you, because there will be no foreigners left to fight.
“I have always said, let us bring buses and take Nigerians and Zimbabweans back to their countries; there would be no job for you. But poverty, hunger and inequality will remain. Chasing away foreigners would not solve the unemployment crisis in this country; it is a myth. I will not join you to attack anybody, not even De Klerk, who committed genocide in this country. These xenophobic attacks are uncalled for and barbaric. I am not the president of thugs.”
The ugly incident sustained the general narrative and anticipation that Malema is South Africa’s shining star. At the height of the xenophobic attacks, when most leaders, including some elder statesmen, were speaking tongue-in-cheek and in veiled support for the violent and criminal attacks on foreigners, Juju declared in very clear terms that he does not support the stupidity.
Condemning black-on-black violence, Malema said: “We call on our fellow South Africans to stop the violence against other poor people in our communities. Xenophobic violence will never resolve the problems our country faces, because they were never caused by foreign nationals in the first place.”
Painting xenophobia as barbaric, he noted that it was “the oppressors, who control our minds that have instilled in us the hatred of our brothers and sisters. They have told us we are better than the rest of the continent.”
While maintaining, “I’m not a president of thugs,” the EFF Commander-in-Chief reiterated that he would never support “such vile acts of criminality.”
In a memorial ceremony organized by EFF for the late Zimbabwe leader, Mugabe, he renewed his condemnation of xenophobia, reminding the misguided youth that some of “you that are beating up Zimbabweans will work for them.
According to him, “You don’t own anything, yet you call people foreigners. You have nothing to show; you are defending somebody’s property. South Africa is owned by whites.”
As usual after the Mugabe burial, Malema’s utterances won him new troubles as the South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) condemned comments attributed to EFF leader. The commission expressed the view that the social media utterances by Mr. Malema around former President Robert Mugabe’s passing away, “on a prima facie basis, amount to hate speech under section 10 of the Promotion of Equality and Prevention of Unfair Discrimination Act.
“The SAHRC has on numerous occasions urged political leaders to recognise and take responsibility for the power they wield through their words.”
Malema caused rumpus in parliament with his template of “building state capacity through insourcing of government and all state-owned companies’ workers.”
With his voice of thunder and ingenious ideas, there is no doubt that Julius Sello Malema would lead South African some day onto the path of real freedom and unpretentious democracy.
‘Juju’, as the young Malema is fondly called, does not want to be liked, but it is clear that he says things the way they are in line with his understanding of the need to resolve the socio-economic inequities in post-apartheid South Africa. On this singular pursuit, he has made himself the Light House of the Rainbow Nation, therefore, its shining light.
To the young revolutionaire, political correctness in speech or carriage does not have a place in his fight against imperialism and agitation for an egalitarian and a truly free South Africa. Malema has, right from his days as the leader of the Youth League of the famous African National Congress (ANC), continued to wage socio-economic battle against white supremacy and venture capitalism.
While his voice of reason thunders with hope on behalf of the downtrodden and dispossessed South Africans, those at the receiving end feel the acerbic fervour and this has remained the battle ground between him and his detractors.
What Malema says as well as how he conveys it reflects a sharp departure from the ordinary, echoing the wishes of the ordinary man and woman on the streets and pricking the caloused conscience of the oppressors.
Between 2008 and 2012, when his second term as President of ANC Youth League was cut short, Juju demonstrated his proficiency in grassroots mobilization in both human rights issues and political activism.
In 2009, while he mobilized support for the election of immediate past South African President, Jacob Zuma, Malema declared to the pain of some puritans, “We are prepared to take up arms and kill for Zuma.”
It is perhaps on account of such off-the-cuff assertions that Malema has come to mean many things to many politicians. While some ANC leaders like Zuma see in him a future leader of South Africa, others dismiss him as a reckless populist and loose cannon capable of pulling the country apart along racial lines.
Later in the same year, during the controversies trailing the sex of a South African athlete, Caster Semenya, Malema threatened to mobilise South Africans to withdraw their deposits in a commercial bank after the bank backtracked in its sponsorship deal with Athletics South Africa (ASA).
Based on his rough and ready tactics, including full exercise of his freedom of speech, Malema continues to find himself at cross-purposes with the establishment-minded elements within the ANC. For instance, on many occasions ‘Juju’ appeared before disciplinary processes for his bold assertions and positions on national and international issues.
Some of these utterances, which the ANC leaders cringed at include ANC Youth Leader’s endorsement of Mugabe’s hard stance against Morgan Tsvangirai and Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), his rough tackles against a foreign journalist and his attempt to compare the administrations of former President Thabo Mbeki and then incumbent, Zuma, who was rounding off his first year in office.
When the heat became too much and ANC proved a ready setback to his populist and progressive politics, Malema proceeded to form the first grassroots-based political party founded on economic emancipation and freedom of the masses.
Prior to the founding of EFF, Malema on two occasions paid what could be described as induction visits to neighbouring Zimbabwe, which, apart from serving as one of the frontline states during the legendary fight against apartheid system, had a veteran freedom fighter as leader. The first was around April 2010, when he was to meet with Mugabe to learn some aspects of the land redistribution or indigenization programme.
Malema’s visit to Zimbabwe, as well as his dismissal of MDC’s Tsvangirai as an ally of imperialists and endorsement of Mugabe’s land reform programme attracted international attention to the emerging young leader. Malema’s Zimbabwe visit raised concerns about the likelihood of South Africa adopting Mugabe’s land redistribution policy, which earned the frontline state sanctions from western countries.
Although Malema’s second visit to Zimbabwe was ostensibly to attend a wedding ceremony and speak to the young wing of Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front (ZANU-PF), he used the opportunity to deliver revolutionary punches against his home country.
He told the young Zimbabweans that their colleagues in South Africa were insisting that the whites should surrender land and mineral resources they confiscated from the indigenous population.
“We want the land and those mineral resources for free, because they never paid for them,” he stated, adding that the whites also committed murder to take over the land.
Hinting at his signature blueprint of expropriation of land, which has remained the fulcrum of his agitation for economic emancipation and redistribution of wealth, Malema said: “We are not going to give them money when we take the land back, because it will be like we are thanking them with money for killing our people.
“We will never do that; little did they know that we are not scared of blood. We are scared of defeat; we don’t want to be defeated, but seeing blood is not what we are scared of as long as that blood delivers what belongs to us, we are prepared to go to that extent.”
Winning with EFF
From July 2013 when Malema regained his political odyssey with the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF), the party has continued to grow in structure, stamina and revolutionary fervour. In May this year, during its second participation in the presidential and parliamentary election, the party garnered 44 seats and grossed a total of 1.8 million or 10.7 per cent votes, which showed a giant leap from its modest showing in 2014.
Rejoicing with the people for giving them more seats in the National Assembly, EFF stated: “We do not take it for granted that in each of the 09 provinces more people believe in the EFF than they did in 2016 and 2014. It is a sign that our revolution is on course and soon it shall be realized and accomplished. We pay special attention to all who voted the EFF, increasing our electoral support by 70 per cent across the country.”
It is perhaps due to this growing national endorsement that most observers see the EFF leader as a possible candidate for the Rainbow Nation’s presidency in the near future. This is because in South Africa, the president and the legislature are not elected directly, since the number of votes won by each party determines how many representatives it sends to the 400-member National Assembly.
With that system in place, the leader of the party that gets the most votes produces the country’s leader. If therefore Julius Malema continues to speak truth to power and to give voice to his economic plans for an inclusive South Africa, his emergence as president remains a high possibility in no distant future.