Embedded scribes impaled on Juju’s denial

2011-08-30 12:46

It’s time that political scribes looked at how the ANC Youth League president, Julius Malema, has secured economic freedom in his lifetime rather than parroting his rhetoric, writes Ferial Haffajee

Like Jani Allen was impaled by the blow-torch blue eyes of Eugene Terre’Blanche, so are many of our journalists impaled by the charms of the ANC Youth League President, Julius Malema.

I’m not sure if it’s the ebony eyes or the cocksure confidence.

Or if it’s just that political talent is so thin on the ground that anyone who can hold a crowd and turn a phrase – “economic freedom in our lifetime” – that he has turned most of the political corps into blushing teenagers.

Take yesterday’s press conference by the league to set the stage. While some of us may have seen a Malema putting up a paper-thin show of bravado, the political reporters saw a confident and self-assured young man.

Why? He kept going on about how he and his comrades could soon be expelled, was unnecessarily defensive and resorted to his usual rhetoric of “agents”, “counter-revolutionaries”, “battles” and “enemies”... it’s all so Stalinist and Soviet.

So 80s, just like the ideology of nationalisation which he said yesterday would be his best legacy.

Yet, the cream of our political crop sat guffawing deferentially and respectfully listening while being lectured at as they did when Malema threw the BBC journalist Jonah Fisher out of a press conference.

Perhaps it’s true what an analyst told me: a significant cut of the political reporting class is onside the Malema project of youthful radical change and a more forthright black nationalism.

That is fine; the world’s finest moments have been made by young Turks.  Everybody acknowledges that Malema is the poster child for a generation of young black people left out of middle-income South Africa.

And he can be an affable person, as we at City Press know from our various interactions with him.

But that should not obscure the fact that rather than fight for economic liberation in our lifetime, Malema has used his political career to secure economic liberation for himself in his own lifetime.

At 30 years old, he has a property portfolio that rivals any number of the “capitalist owners of the means of production” he is so fond of making speeches about.

While he has publicly claimed that his only property is bonded to Absa and that if he had lost the nomination as president, “(Absa CEO) Maria Ramos’ henchmen would be at his gate taking back his home since it was mortgaged”. It’s a lie.

Investigations by City Press have revealed that Malema’s property empire is built on cash.

Our research has shown that not more than 10% of working- and middle-class South Africans can afford to buy their homes in cash.

Malema has denied, publicly, that he owns any businesses although the database of corporate ownership, Cipro, has revealed that he was a director of companies; and as we have shown, he has developed new ways of earning millions from the public purse.

This has been done by so many sleights of hand that it will take our team years to fully unravel.What’s clear is this: while Malema has pinned his political colours to the nationalisation flag, his companies are running outsourced operations.

On-Point has taken over the management of tenders for Limpopo’s roads and infrastructure funds. In all the literature, outsourcing is regarded as a form of privatisation.The state lacks the skill to even spend its own money by managing the tender system.

In Limpopo, it appears from our investigations that governance is contracted out (or privatised) almost completely and almost all to a network of politically connected companies.

Malema is at the centre of this network and the money trail is clear to see.

He has paid cash for properties, he runs his lifestyle in cash and On-Point has been used as a cash-cow for the league.

Off the proceeds of a form of privatisation, Malema has secured his own economic freedom. His radical politics of revolution, nationalisation and expropriation are a chimera of a man who does not walk his talk.

Yet, the political corps is so enamoured that it has taken investigative teams to show us the corruption at the heart of our youth politics.

Listening to interview after interview, I’ve not heard any political scribes ask the really tough questions about Malema’s trust funds, outsourcing and his business empires. They have allowed themselves to be impaled on his denial and helped him embroider an image of a revolutionary.

Malema is not the Che Guevara he pretends to be; he is far more a Donald Trump or the very “Ruperts” he tends to chastise.

Neither have I heard a single political correspondent ask Malema about whether his stance on Botswana’s rights decline is not in direct contradiction to cosying up with the Zanu-PF Youth Brigade who have given him cattle and with whom he is allegedly in business?

Or ask him to provide the hard detail of where nationalisation has worked and where it has not.

Where are we going to find the mining engineers; the capital to run the mines; why are his private companies running the infrastructure budget thus adding layers of costs to the building blocks of a better life?

These are essential questions to ask before accepting glibly that nationalisation is a necessary and correct policy for a future South Africa.

Embedded journalism wrought havoc upon journalism this century, I hope it doesn’t do the same in our country.

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