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Julius Sello Malema; das Drama des hochbegabten Kindes

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Nomazulu Thata                                                                                        


The son of the soil is Juju. The youthful South African politician Julius Malema was born in 1981 in Transvaal province. Malema was not even born when Zimbabwe got independence in 1980 and he was barely 10 years when Mandela was released from Robin Island Prison in 1990. Like all black South Africans, the release of Mandela from Robin Island prison was a moment, a historical stride that no one ever envisaged inside South Africa and globally. Just before his release from prison, Mandela wrote a letter to the peoples of South Africa – Black and white alike. He wrote: “the nationalisation of mines banks and monopoly industries is the policy of the ANC. Black economic empowerment was the goal we fully support and encourage.” Little did the growing up Julius Malema know how South African independence would fall short of the very words that came from the beloved Nelson Mandela.

Those words from Mandela came from the aspirations of the Freedom Charter that were premised on access to land for all, living wages and shorter hours of work for all, free and compulsory education for all, decent houses, right to free movement, South Africa has the largest gold reserves in the world, and it should be the national wealth that benefits all who live in South Africa. The national wealth of South Africa belongs to all. Succinctly put, these are the objectives enshrined in this famous document.

The Freedom Charter was adopted by all South Africans of all races in 1955. It is this document that ignited a revolution composed of all races and generations in South Africa including some white South Africans from the communist party and other liberal parties. Thousands of people lost lives and limb defending the Freedom Charter. During the 1970s militant young people in the townships, Soweto especially, fearlessly immerged demanding freedom in their lifetime. They boycotted Bantu education, confronted the police that used brute force to quell exploding riots. Almost all the people openly said they were fighting for freedom, riots were rampant, sporadic and frequent so that they push the racist regime to submission, and they see freedom in their lifetime. The Freedom Charter remained the torch bearer that was to be passed on from one generation to the next including growing up Julius Malema.

For a young incredibly talented boy Julius born in the dizzy heights of apartheid time, he was versed with all historical happenings, exciting and excruciating time to comprehend. At last Mandela was negotiating with white supremacists, de Klerk and his Nationalist Government. Juju who was 13 years then, must have been overwhelmed with his inward, genuine, valid questions: Are these on-going political negotiations going to realize the aspirations of the Freedom Charter; the holy grail, questions that lingered in many hearts and minds, black and white alike in cross purposes.

Young Julius looked on with curiosity of a growing up, talented and gifted young man with eager glee, read every newspaper he could set his hands on to comprehend processes that determined immediate future of his generation. Juju must have been informed about the global anti-apartheid movement, that had turned out to be a global mass movement that forced the racist government of South Africa to come to the negotiation table and relinquish power to the majority black South Africans. Who would have thought that Mandela’s acumen and his party ANC would fall short of recognizing the uniqueness of their position to get the best deal ever, Mandela was almost a living saint after his long incarceration of 27 years? They went into these much-anticipated negotiations unprepared but managed to carefully put their focus on the dire implications that transpired in Mozambique’s independence from Portugal and never such a repeat in South Africa.

As the talks intensified between Mandela and de Klerk, Julius and others growing up youth must have realized that independence of South Africa will fall short of the aspirations of the freedom charter from the onset. While the negotiations were taking place, a civil war in South Africa looming, coming from different directions. However, a “peaceful handover” of white rule to black majority took place yes but was a manipulated, diluted freedom and independence was only political freedom to vote and never beyond. It was just freedom only in name despite the global outpouring of admiration of Mandela. The economic negotiations were a total disaster: Mandela and ANC dismally failed to hold corporate industries that benefited from apartheid to account. Not only that, disastrous concessions, miscalculations and poor performances were to come.

ANC failed to nationalize key sectors of South Africa’s economy as per the demands of the Freedom Charter. The ANC agreed to concessions such as central bank that was to be run autonomous under former Apartheid Governor of Central Bank of South Africa; Chris Stals. The Finance Minister Derek Keyes was reinstated in his position without questions.  Was there a genuine negotiation taking place or were there deals reduced to horse trading: which party takes what between ANC and the National Party? Evidently Mandela and ANC were not prepared for this Grande occasion and did not rise to such an important and historical moment.

The Nationalist Party of de Klerk wreaked havoc instead by going to the World Bank and were given debt amounting to 30 billion behind the back of Mandela and ANC, a foreign debt that hounds the ANC government to this day. The debt that the Nationalist Party of de Klerk syphoned at the World bank was never for the benefit of the black population but was for the white population’s pension fund and the rest was looted by those whites who wanted to leave South Africa altogether. The credit-lines were clandestinely abused by the apartheid regime without the knowledge of ANC wholly intended to later pay pensions to those white South African population who worked for the apartheid regime. In a nutshell, the ANC negotiating team was painfully outmanoeuvred and outsmarted right, left and centre.

Juju was barely 15 years when he realized that the newly elected government of Mandela and ANC were not able to implement the grassroot prestige: the aspirations of the Freedom Charter. Even after independence, South Africa was as divided as ever: black- white divide and racist still raw and animosities unchanged. Unemployment skyrocketed because many industries were leaving black South African government to other places. The policies that ANC implemented, in some cases it was not favourable much to the black population hence the differences between races exploded disproportionately, literally turning South Africa into two distinct race classes living separately illustrating two distinct pictures of UK-Surrey and Zambia-Kalingalinga social divides. It was evident to Malema that political transformation was attained but never economic reforms. What was achieved in the talks were the ability of blacks to vote and nothing else, never beyond, no economic independence for black people except few oligarchs constituting 4% of South Africa wealth.

Julius Malema was 19 years when we celebrated the Millennium. Recollection of historical events in South Africa is painful to those young people like Malema who understood the missed golden opportunity of the past Millennium. What could have been the 20th century of glorious transition of power to South Africa’s indigenous, turned out to be a political circus: power without power.

Immediately after South Africa independence was the famous “Truth and Reconciliation” chaired by Archbishop Desmond Tutu. The Commission having listened to all those who testified state torture, deaths and crimes against humanity, the question to the victims was: what kind of gesture do victims of apartheid regime want so that the healing takes place?

This was the moment when the victims and survivors of apartheid atrocities could have said unanimously, “we demand that all corporate companies that benefited from apartheid South Africa be made to pay back and make monetary reparations for all South Africans. Those reparations would have accounted to billions of national revenues that the new dispensation would have freely accessed to kick-start a black economy without seeking debt from international financial bodies such as World Bank, IMF etc. As if the situation in South Africa is not bad enough, Thabo Mbeki, who was President then, rejected suggestions of corporate reparations, those companies that benefited from cheap labour forced on African population by the National Party of South Africa must be punished forthwith monetarily. By redeeming the corporate companies from reparations Thabo Mbeki was pleasing the international markets at the detriment of black South African poor and victims of apartheid atrocities. Instead, worse still, individuals who were victims of state torture were paid from the state treasury, a treasury that is repaying foreign debt that has nothing to do with the current dispensation. When common sense is no longer common. Call me Thatcherite, said Thabo Mbeki, the global market pleaser.

In 2003, Juju Malema was 22 years old: Archbishop Tutu confronted the journalists and said: “Can you explain how a black person wakes up in the morning in a squalid ghetto today, almost ten years after freedom? Then he goes to town, which is still largely white, in palatial homes. And at the end of the day, he goes back home to squalor? Those were Desmond Tutt’s words who was openly regretting the chairmanship of the Truth and Reconciliation.

The growing up Julius was watching still and asked himself pertinent questions how did hopefuls like Chris Thembisile Hani die? It is left to speculation as to who murdered Chris Hani. Was it a hand of apartheid vestiges or ANC who saw in Hani a communist who was obviously to demand the implementation of the Freedom Charter? The chief economic negotiator Thabo Mbeki was openly calling himself a Thatcherite to please the international markets of London, Washington, Frankfurt, and at home in Johannesburg. In all economic negotiations that took place, it was done with the assistance of the Washington Consensus.

It escaped the economic negotiators that the South African struggle was a revolutionary struggle and the hope for the millions must be realized as per the aspirations of the Freedom Charter. Painful still Juju must have seen that those responsible in negotiating economic independence were not aware of their gross misdemeanours to some extent no background knowledge in commerce and mathematics ever to be part of such high-flier negotiations that determined the lives of 50 million citizens forever.

No land reform, it was agreed in the negotiations clauses that the new dispensation will respect private property. Job creation: no, no; factories were closing going elsewhere.  Again, the new dispensation of ANC had signed an agreement with General Agreement on Trade and Tariffs (GATT) a precursor of World Trade Organisation (WTO). Free education for all, nope, the central Bank was ring-fenced by Chris Stals, it had become independent of the lawmakers in parliament the majority of which were ANC members. Build decent houses, electricity for the poor and clean water and sanitation: no, no money as South Africa needs to clear its debt it incurred just before independence. Debt repayment must be made in time to keep the credit-lines workable. But the new dispensation was repaying apartheid debt that had nothing to do with the new ANC government. No free HIV/AIDS medication as it is property rights of pharma industries.

Julius Malema was a young man then who understood the crudeness of politics under the black government and was mostly agitated by the economic arcane his country. Malema realized that he and the majority of black South Africans were not free. The government of ANC was restrained and constrained in giving the black population a semblance of better life and better conditions as per the Freedom Charter. When the new government realized that it cannot access funding of project for the black poor it started selling government institutions to fund projects such as houses and amenities in townships to meet the bare minimum requirements of their promises, a drop in the ocean. Instead of nationalizing to generate wealth for the poor, ANC was privatizing further, a reverse of what the whole revolution was all about, let alone how they betrayed the Freedom Charter and the black population.

When enough was enough: the gifted and talented Malema and his associates formed a  party he called Economic Freedom Fighters: EFF? His party “draws its inspiration from the broad Marxist-Leninist tradition and Fanonian schools of thought in their analyses of the state, imperialism, culture and class contradictions in every society.” Close quote, taken from the party constitution. “EFF takes its significance from Thomas Sankara in terms of both style and ideology and the party EFF was proudly declared Sankarist.” Close quote.

For Julius Malema to come up with such ideas of economic party program that managed to garner more than 6% of the national votes, ground-breaking political events must have compelled him to take the fate into their hands, daringly, courageously and openly fight for economic independence for the majority of the population; the black South Africans. It takes a gifted and talented politician of Malema’s courage and acumen to defy the mother party ANC and openly admits that his party is to fight and gain economic power that the black population does not have, has never had since independence. Only a few blacks benefited from the independence, but the majority of Africa are living in dire poverty, life has not changed for them since independence of 1994.

When Julius Malema formed his EFF party, Mandela was still alive. It is pertinent to imagine what questions occupied Juju’s mind before he decided enough is enough, he is forming a new party that was to address economic issues lost in the negotiations leading to the independence of South Africa. Did he sit down with Tatomkhulu u Mandela on one-to-one basis and asked what went wrong with the revolution that he sacrificed 27 years in Robin island? Below are the questions that Julius may have asked Tatomkhulu Mandela….

“Khulu, you were incarcerated for 27 years in Robin Island: I know you were imprisoned because you were part of the revolution that came up with a document called The Freedom Charter in 1955 unequivocally demanding economic, political and social rights of all South Africans. I do not see traces of the aspirations of the Freedom Charter in our political, economic and social lives of us black people. Am I wrong Khulu?

Khulu, why did you and the ANC renege the Freedom Charter in your negotiations with de Klerk’s National Party? I was young then, barely 10 years old in 1989 when you were set free from prison, you wrote a letter to all South Africans: I quote: “the nationalisation of mines banks and monopoly industries is the policy of the ANC. Black economic empowerment was the goal we fully support and encourage.”  My comrades and I believed and trusted your leadership that you were going to usher a new dawn, deliver true independence for all South Africans that you pridely called the Rainbow Nation.

Khulu, I understand the constraint you may have encountered, you did not realize that when you left prison you were almost a living saint, you could have demanded that the Freedom Charter be adhered to the letter because that was the purpose of your many years of incarceration in Robin Island. You had the stage set to explain to the wider world why the aspirations of the Freedom Charter are the key to freedom of black people. There were several alternatives you may have done, seeing that South Africa was a capitalist state, and the Freedom charter had a socialistic outlook, you were better placed to define a third way.

Khulu, you are aware of the debt that was given to South Africa just before independence, This debt is choking the treasury to this day, it was organized to facilitate pensions for aged citizens who worked for the apartheid regime, some of them were given and absconded to wherever. Your new dispensation is stuck, is chocking with debt that has nothing to do with the black citizens. Why did you not challenge this betrayal of de Klerk’s collapsing dispensation?

Khulu, immediately after independence, we were amazed and flabbergasted to hear that Central Bank Governor and the Finance Minister Derek Keyes maintained their positions in your dispensation. Does it really make sense that the Central Bank of South Africa runs autonomously without interference from the parliament? These two big guys oversee the state purse of a new government. How are you going to implement programs to change the lives of millions who waited for you to come out of prison and redeem them from apartheid South Africa era? Khulu were and your ANC hierarchy conscious of the enormous task and responsibility you had in the negotiations you had with the South African racist regime whose system initially was wholly racist to acquire lucrative economy. This means they were not going to give South Africa away with good intentions.

Khulu, are you aware of the fact that the nature of the current democracy we have today has been severely altered? I am sorry to say Khulu, that you were outmanoeuvred by de Klerk and his henchmen. Their manoeuvres were predetermined from the word go and you did not see that. I am sorry to say that for 27 years ANC should have been preparing for this moment and apparently, they were caught sleeping. How did the Washington Consensus come in the negotiations? Who invited them to be part of it? Is it Thabo Mbeki, how did you feel when Mbeki openly called himself a Thatcherite? Surely an economist like him should have known the implications of that statement. 

Khulu, when ANC signed agreements such as General Agreements on Tariffs and Trade, GATT:  Structural Adjustment Policies, International Trade Agreement, WTO, Innovations and Constitutional Law etc. Did they really understand the long-term implications of these agreements?

Khulu, how is it possible that international corporate companies walk scot-free without reparations on any kind. Apartheid was an economic system that used racism, cheap black labour to get billions of profits. You lost a golden chance of a lifetime for not demanding such reparations from them. You become friends with Harry Oppenheimer of De Beers, Richard Branson’s Virgin Group, and a private resident Charles Spencer. These friends had leafy homes in South Africa but they when it became a black government they left. De Beers Consolidated Mines offices relocate to Geneva, Switzerland months before South Africa became independent. I really do not see through the friendship and its benefits with them, I will not ask further questions. It feels as if such friendship compromised a lot in negotiations of our independence.

My last question to you Khulu, its not really a question but a statement. You made a blanket pardon and amnesty to all those atrocities of apartheid era. To your credit, there was a Truth and Reconciliation that was supposed to facilitate national healing. To my surprise you never pardoned your wife, Gogo Winnie Madikizela Mandela for once. Whatever Gogo Winnie must have done, she deserved a pardon just like all those criminals in the apartheid system.  I have serious problems with that, but I will not ask you to explain such personal issues with your wife. You are my grandfather yes, but I want to respect your privacy for once.”  

Khulu it feels as if the chains of oppression were removed from our necks and were put on our ankles. There is no independence without economic independence. I would like to let you know that very soon you are passing on leaving a South Africa that is still in chains, not yet independent, not yet UHURU. Going to vote is not independence, political freedom alone is not genuine freedom. Freedom is coming tomorrow, and the Freedom Charter shall be our torch bearer, our aspirations to fight on until victory. It is for this reason I am forming a new party called Economic Freedom Fighters. The clue is in the title.   

Julius Malema is a remarkable politician who embodies everything about African and South African. He is one of the few politicians who lives up to the definition of the word UBUNTU. He is barely 40 years old his political transcendence is marred with controversy, but it took time for the world, especially Africans to appreciate who Julius Malema is in South African political discourse and who is Juju Malema in the African context. At best this young man could be called the pride of Africa and it is befitting. What is Juju’s solidarity with the poor South Africans, Malema knows them and serves them at parliament level.

Malema understands the plight of black foreigners in South Africa and can defend them at the highest level. Malema has demonstrated in various aspects of his career as a seasoned and unparallel politician. Our hope is in Malema who will always fight for the dignity of African people. Malema is the only South African politician we know who fights on the side of black African foreigners in South Africa. Malema fights xenophobia single-handedly. Malema is a very courageous man, the lion of Africa. His politics transcends beyond the borders of South Africa. We wish this young gifted and talented young man long life. May his dream about Africa come true.