Malema has a point

2009-08-19 00:00

THE storm surrounding African National Congress Youth League President Julius Malem­a’s criticism of President Jacob Zuma’s appointment of “minorities” to strategic economic positions, personifies a kind of hypocrisy and dishonesty.

Malema commented last week that all the security cluster minister­s in Zuma’s cabinet are black, while the economics cluster ministers are appointed from min­ority groups. And all hell broke loose.

Ministers Nathi Mthethwa, Jeff Radebe and Siyabonga Cwele are in charge of police, justice and state security respectively, while Pravin Gordhan, Rob Davies and Ebrahim Patel are the ministers of Finance Trade and Industry, and Economic Development.

This is what Malema said: “Minister of Police, Minister of Intelligence, Minister of Justice — they are all Africans. But in the economics cluster, it’s minorities. We need to build confidence in the markets that Africans are also capa­ble of handling strategic posi­tions in the economic sector. Otherwise black youths will not believe that one day they can work in strategic economic positions. The youth will think, bec­ause [Gill] Marcus is white, they [whites] are born like that; there’s no way I can be like that.”

You see, context is everything.

Because Malema calls it like it is, dishonest, hypocritical South Africans who thrive on political correctness will always be uncomfortable with him, the things he says and what he believes in.

The issues of race and transformation in this country are deeply entrenched. Therefore most black people will always be sensitive about the roles they play in key strategic positions in the life of their nation.

It’s not about positions for positions’ sake, but it’s about the contributions they are asked to make in the country of their birth, where they have suffered a lifetime of humiliation and deprivation at the hands of their oppressors. These black people are sensitive and vigilant and are never likely to allow themselves to be relegated to positions they are suspicious about.

Hello. This is about destiny. Black people want to shape their own destiny for themselves and their children. They never want their children to go through what they went through, irrespective of the ANC’s ideological definition of race.

That is where Malema is coming from. He is not questioning the minorities’ credentials. He is simply saying: “What about black people? How do we explain this to our children?”

Malema is not alone on this issue, either. There’s already a vib­rant debate about this issue within the senior ranks of the ANC. So, to dismiss it as another of Malema’s rants, is tantamount to denialism of the worst kind.

Yes, it is a bit embarrassing to a lot of people. But it remains the country’s practical reality. All liberation organisations have faced this reality during the struggle.

The ANC, the Pan Africanist Congress (PAC) and even the black consciousness organisations such as the South African Students’ Organ­isation (Saso) and Black People’s Convention (BPC) had these problems. Steve Biko had a problem because black consciousness members from the then Natal were rejecting Indian membership of their organisations.

Denying the issue of race is like denying that tribalism exists within these liberation organisations.

ANC secretary-general Gwede Mantashe said the debate was erro­neous and was “actually retro­gressive and is against what the ANC stands for”.

Wake up and smell the coffee, mate. You’ve got a problem in your own back yard. Black people no longer wish to be pigeonholed. As a former trade unionist, Mantashe will know that big companies are doing the same as far as corporate positions are concerned. They often relegate positions such as human resources to black people. Their attitude is that these positions are insignificant enough and therefore are suited to blacks.

However, no one can question the credentials of the ministers in the economics cluster.

Finance Minister Gordhan’s stewardship of the South Afri­can Revenue Service (SARS), for nearly a decade, speaks for itself. He has received great kudos for improving revenue collection and building the SARS brand and reputation. As chair of the World Customs Organisation and for his role in the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development’s crack-down on tax havens, he can only be praised.

He played a big role in Codesa (Convention for a Democratic South Africa) negotiations, which led to the country’s first democratic elections in 1994.

Economic Development Minister Patel also has a solid track record and served with distinction in many roles.

Davies, the minister of Trade and Industry, has been in this portfolio since 2005 and served in Parliament since 1994. He has chaired Parliament’s finance and trade and industry portfolios. He is well known for his diligence and vigilance and as an energetic deputy minister.

Reserve Bank Governor-designate Marcus’s record speaks for itself. She is extremely com­petent and will be a very good governo­r.

But let’s face it, black people want to shape their own destiny.



• Sipho Ngcobo writes a blog called The Perfect Storm.

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