There is no black middle class

2011-06-25 10:43

Ferial Haffajee spoke to Julius Malema about his views on nationalisation and expropriation.

You give some South Africans the horries, that is, you make them anxious. To others you give hope. Why is there this dual understanding of you?

We are in a class struggle and those who own the means of production have a problem with those who don’t.

I speak for those who do not own the means of production. When you speak about transformation, you don’t speak to them and there is no way they will love you. The oppressed see hope in us.

So, you see the Youth League speaking for more than just three million disempowered and unemployed youth. We reflect the aspirations of the majority.

The people in squatter camps. The elderly. When I went to Swetjla (an informal settlement in Alexandra, near Joburg), an old lady said: ‘You, the youth are the first ones to associate with the problems of the elderly.

So, like Obama, you inspire hope? People want deliverance to the land of milk and honey.

They don’t have jobs. They don’t know where next meal will come from.

They see us as the people coming to take them out of those environments.

Thus, you are not very worried about the ­people who you inspire fear in?

Like who?
The elites.

The elites? Which elites? The black middle class is very happy with the youth league, as young black professionals are subject to hard conditions at work.

A black CA (chartered ­accountant) will have to work twice as hard as a white person with the same qualifications.

So you believe your appeal to be multi-class and multi-generational?

There are only two classes: those who own the means of production and those who don’t.

Do you believe mines should be nationalised to fund the consumption needs of poor people or that the industry should be restructured to leverage industrialisation as the head of the ANC study group on nationalisation, Paul Jourdan, writes.

There should be greater participation by the state in the mining sector.

The state should have a 60% stake. And the state should use the proceeds or dividends to pay workers a living wage.

They should also use the dividends to develop mining communities.

The rest can go into national coffers to fund social delivery.

But that’s not Jourdan’s argument and, by extension, that of the ANC. He says the status quo can’t continue because it doesn’t benefit the state. But his futurescape is different: rather than using the mines to fund consumption (or poverty alleviation), he says the proceeds should form the basis of the re-industrialisation of South Africa. It’s very different to your view.

The two can go together. You can beneficiate locally to build local ­economies. You can resuscitate local economies and declare those places to be cities, which will provide more employment.

The state must invest in education to build mining, ­technical and engineering skills.

When I’ve heard you speaking about land ­expropriation, the example you use is Alex or places like Alex. That sounds more like a need for property and housing rather than land for housing. Do people want to stay on the land?

Our rates of urbanisation suggest they want to come to cities. It’s not true. Why do they rent back-rooms?

They know they will have to go home. People want the quiet life of villages. Look at the old man, Madiba, who is saying: ‘I want to go home.’ If we give these people ­economic activities in rural areas, they will never come here.

Are you sure?

Why did people come to Joburg? They were searching for gold.

It’s about economic opportunities. We need more cities in locally viable ­areas. We need the land for agriculture, too. Black farmers farm on a small scale.

We need agricultural land.

But all evidence suggests that the agrarian ­revolution, the ability to produce enough food, lies with ensuring large-scale production?

The small-scale black farmers must be made big farmers.

The reason they are small-scale farmers is because of the size of their land ownership.

These ones can’t do anything. They are asking for more land. Where we find a white person having productive land, that person should not be driven into the sea.

They must be retained to transfer skills.

Your numbers on wealth transfer seem wrong to me. When you say that 90% of the wealth is in white hands, which wealth are you talking about? What about the fact that black property ownership has grown substantially?

That the black middle class has been one of the most socially mobile in the history of the world? Don’t you run the risk of negating one of the greatest gains of the post-apartheid period?

Nobody said there was no BEE.

But it has empowered only a few.

If you are going to talk about property ownership, that’s very narrow, you’re talking about bonded homes.

The greater commanding heights are in the hands of the minority.

Who owns the mining sector? Who owns other sectors?

Who dominates the agricultural sector? Bonded houses are not property.

These are tiny houses, the same size as the bathroom of the Rupert family. I don’t own that house you at City Press keep writing about, it’s owned by Absa.

If I wasn’t re-elected last week, you would have seen a white man at my gate, coming to repossess my house.

The land we want expropriated doesn’t include residential areas.

But what about the very real and living black middle class that we’ve seen boom. . .

There is a working class and a capitalist class.

There is no middle class.

They are only credit-worthy people who have a job that pays them every month.

Some of them don’t even know how much they earn because before they get their salaries, it’s used to pay debt.

You’re 30 years old now. When do you want to be president?

I want to be given a smaller job and less responsibility.

I don’t want to be president. When I go home, I’ll go and farm on my small piece of land.

I have 10 cattle given to me by the Zimbabweans. I’ll farm and contribute in my locality.

In your locality, you can make a contribution.

The second reason is that I came (to politics) at the age of nine and I’ve never lived an ordinary life, married and had kids. I need time to do soul-searching.

I’ve always been at the helm of leadership positions. I want to try and find myself properly.

Those with ambitions to be president should not ­regard me as a threat.

I don’t want that job. Because even if you’re going on holiday, you have to tell people.

You can’t go to ZAR (the night club perched at the top floor of a Sandton high-rise hotel) and appreciate the beauty of Jozi ­because you’ll never have peace.

Are there lots of wives lining up to marry you?

I’ll marry only one wife. I believe in the youth league’s one-partner ­campaign.

I don’t have anybody at the moment because you have to be ­accessible and accountable to that person.

Now, people want pictures and hugs and you have to be able to give it to them.

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