When the spotlight fell on Julius Malema some time ago, certain sections of the press ridiculed him for having failed the subject of woodwork at school. To this day I fail to see the connection between woodwork and politics. Did Nelson Mandela do woodwork? Did Jacob Zuma or Helen Zille or for that matter Barak Obama do woodwork at school? I doubt it and even if they did, I cannot see that this skill could possibly have influenced or enhanced their political careers. This is a tactic that certain elements of the Press use against politicians and other prominent figureheads as a means to belittle them. It's an unfortunate tactic as it often detracts from the true character of the person being discussed. Malema is depicted as a buffoon with no academic ability and is therefore unsuitable to be a political leader. This, I believe, is a serious mistake. Julius Malema is not someone to be taken lightly. Malema understands people and the way they think. He has an insight into the black African people that very few, if any, white Africans can ever hope to match. He knows how they think, what they want and what they will endure to get it. The name of his political party demonstrates this very clearly: the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF). Black Africans especially, want economic freedom and they are prepared to fight for it. It is a travesty that black South Africans haven't seen the economic freedom that they expected after 1994 and they are becoming more and more determined to have it. Malema is very aware of this and he also knows that black Africans still blame the colonialist powers to this day for their misfortune. A few years ago an international polling organisation conducted a poll throughout Africa in an attempt to establish the popularity of the continent's leaders. It came as no surprise that Nelson Mandela was Africa's most revered leader nor that Olusegen Obasanjo of Nigeria came second but the rest of the world was astounded that the third most popular leader in Africa at the time was Robert Mugabe, the leader of Zimbabwe. What on earth, they wondered, made the leader of this tiny country so popular? His popularity stems from his ongoing vendetta with the former colonial powers such as Great Britain and many of the countries in the European Union. Robert Mugabe understands the thinking of the African majority just as Julius Malema does. How else could he have remained in power for over thirty years despite the hardships that his people have endured during those years? It is my belief that Julius Malema is following in Mugabe's footsteps. This belief is backed up by his frequent visits to Zimbabwe and the friendly relationship that he has with Mugabe. The two men obviously see the similarities in themselves. We would be unwise to reject Julius Malema as a small-time politician. It is true that he has made a lot of mistakes, but he's learning from them. A politically-experienced team has been appointed by his party to coach him and help him avoid the gaffes that he has committed in the past and we will soon see a far more politically mature man under their guidance. The rest of the world doesn't understand African politics and whether Julius Malema will ever rise to lead South Africa cannot be denied or confirmed at such an early stage but taking the similarities between him and many other African leaders, past and present, it would be wise to recognise the potential that he has and treat him with care.
© 2013 Oliver T. Spedding
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