Donwald Pressly

Inside Parliament: The Big Man just doesn't want to go: Malema

2015-04-30 15:14

Donwald Pressly

The African National Congress Youth League told President Jacob Zuma when he was in the political wilderness that they would support him for South Africa's top political office to avoid a constitutional crisis.

Zuma had insisted he would stay in office for one five-year term.

The Economic Freedom Fighters' leader and MP Julius Malema used a platform of the Gesprek forum at the Palmiet Valley Estate - led by white farmers - in Paarl last week to recount the active role the youth league played in making him party leader, and ultimately president of South Africa.

Admitting in hindsight this was a mistake, Malema said youth league leaders had trouble convincing ANC leaders, including traditional leaders, and even their girlfriends at the time that Zuma was the right candidate.

Many of the youth league - which he led at the time - had gone to bed only at 3pm to allow lots of time to canvass for Zuma. They were repeatedly told: "You can't make this man a president...(we) had to sit them down and persuade them... we had to persuade our girlfriends... I don't think any of (our) girlfriends supported us immediately."

Zuma had told  them: "I don't want it (but) since you are insisting .. I will only go (for) one term." Although this was said privately to the youth league, it was later reported by Moshoeshoe Monare in Independent Newspapers, Malema told the farmers.

When it later emerged that President Zuma was going for a second term, they asked him about it. "We were pleased (he was) going for only one term.. what is your problem now." In the early years Zuma had "celebrated every little thing that we (the league) uttered against (former President Thabo) Mbeki" and other opponents. The league was described as "very brave".

Malema, who backed Zuma to avoid a constitutional crisis caused by Mbeki seeking a third presidential term, said Zuma had seen becoming head of state as the only way of avoiding a prison term. "The only way of stopping prison is by becoming the president of the ANC." That was what drove Zuma's bravery.

Then when they started asking questions about his leadership, the president remarked: "This is indiscipline." Ultimately the youth dissenters were kicked out of the ANC.

Turning to the white - and noticeably well-heeled audience - Malema appealed to white men, in particular, to display their feminine side, although he didn't call it that.

It was time for white men "to stand up" and be counted in "reconstructing society ... to become a better society for all of us. Stop seeing yourselves as them and us."

Calling on the whites to put money into his opposition party so it could hold the ANC government to account, he said his party was seeking "a genuine contribution from white men". He urged white farmers to mentor black farmers. Land expropriation should only happen if the land was "not used".
If it were not, it should be given to people "who can use it productively". He envisaged that government would come to the party and give all farmers subsidies for their tractors and seed.

Turning to Lonmin in North West where the massacre of mine workers occurred in 2012, he said the chairman of the company lived in London. "The chairman of Lonmin is forever in London, he is never here... he doesn't know how the mine looks like and the conditions of the people who live next to the mine ... maybe if he stayed here those things would touch him." Thus he probably did not see that there was a slum next to the mine and a dump between the mine and the community, which had no electricity, schools or running water.

If the vast sums of money given to Patrice Motsepe, chairman of ARM, was spread among the mining communities "those communities would be shining examples of what a mine can do for a community". He envisaged a system where workers got shares but they worked together to use the dividends to build houses and schools for the community.

But Malema supported curtailing foreign ownership of land: "(Microsoft chairman) Bill Gates can come and buy the whole of the Northern Cape or Limpopo for that matter and put walls around... and create one gate. When you want to protest, they tell you this is a private property.. I am owning it." This caused problems for the sovereignty of the state. "It means that our state is available to thei highest bidder," Malema charged.

In previous engagements with Malema, he appeared to support the idea that commercial farmers would only be allowed to lease land if the EFF came to power, but now it seems his party may have moved to accept private ownership - at least by South Africans. "As long as it's a productive farm, we don't have to interfere with the production on that piece of land," he told the farmers.

But his policies remain murky and overtly populist. He seemed to acknowledge that the white farmers weren't going to buy his policies too easily.

So he urged them to take note that his party had ended the snoring in parliament since it took 25 MPs there last year. "They (ANC MPs) were forever snoring.. now they are permanently awake. They used to abscond from parliament... now they attend parliament. Democracy is now working... you may disagree with our politics, but support democracy... You ought to choose where you want to put your money." Ministers were now attending parliament whereas before they "never took it seriously. It is not the same today because of the arrival of the EFF. What makes the country strong is the opposition... exposing the shenanigans of the African National Congress."

He said DA leader Helen Zille "was a very strong politician.. she took over the city (of Cape Town) and the province.. She increased DA numbers". The likely new leader Mmusi Maimane was a pastor. Predicting a DA decline under his leadership, Malema said: "The DA is going to be converted into a church, you don't need extra churches."

Malema has, indeed, helped to turn parliament around - some would say upside down - and arguably has bolstered the democracy. The jury is open as to whether he will maintain the political momentum and if his party's tactics and a still confused economic philosophy will capture more and more voters.

But he got one thing right at least as far as his audience was concerned. They could agree that  South Africa was moving inexorably down a path of political corruption. South Africa was failing to learn the lesson of so many African states where individual leaders - heads of state - became "more powerful than the state institutions". To applause, he said: "You don't have to like us ... you must like democracy. Without a strong opposition you are heading into a dictatorship."

Disclaimer: News24 encourages freedom of speech and the expression of diverse views. The views of columnists published on News24 are therefore their own and do not necessarily represent the views of News24.

Read more on:    eff  |  ancyl  |  julius malema  |  jacob zuma
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