It does not matter what happens at the second national people’s assembly that will take place at Nasrec later this month, EFF leader Julius Malema is here to stay.
He may change course if he does not return as commander-in-chief after the conference, but he will continue to give hope and aspiration to his admirers and those positively affected by his advocacy. For those who have ignorant or uninformed opinions of him through the media, my aim is to attempt to conscientise you about one of the fiercest leaders of our generation.
Malema is the son of a single mother who worked as a maid. He is intelligent and streetwise, a seasoned politician who creates significant movement. He has the ability to zoom in on the essence of what the majority of South Africans need and connect with them. He has presence, charisma, gravitas and is a visionary. When he walks into a room attention shifts to him. This is a space into which he naturally fits. He can be compared to top hip-hop Grammy Award-winning artist, Christian, genius, billionaire Kanye West, whose musical performance rises to match the required level, occasion and resultant pressure.
West comes from a family that was part of the civil rights movement – his father was a Black Panther and his mother was arrested for sit-ins. They fought for the right of people to an opinion, a right that mainstream and the culture have attempted to take away from him throughout his career.
Malema and West are known for challenging the status quo wherever they go, which society desperately needs because clearly what leaders have done in the past and continue to do is not working fast enough. They are both agents of change and are rule breakers.
Here is something that has always been at the nexus of the black struggle: If you do not break the law, you do not change the law. History is made of people who broke the law – Martin Luther King Jnr, Nelson Mandela, Winnie Madikizela-Mandela, Victoria Mxenge were all made fugitives for exercising their principle to do the right thing as opposed to obeying laws and regulations put in place to keep black people “in their place”. But not many people are willing to abandon their personal agenda for the greater good of the community.
We have seen in recent history how many people, including mainstream media, have taken a stance to deliberately misunderstand West and Malema. Look at how they are respectively portrayed on television, radio, newspapers, social media; it is in a negative way, as if to suggest that the world would be better off without them.
It is important to recognise that the media is a critical to the social agenda of any country, but to insidiously take the life of a person you must first kill their image because the public will always take arms for people who are unjustly treated but if you can convince the world that it would be better off without that individual then no one cares when the physical carnage begins
West was one of the first hip-hop moguls to publicly call out the hip-hop community for gay bashing. As soon as Closed on Sunday – a song on his latest album, Jesus Is King – was released, there were immediate calls from the LGBTIQ community to boycott West’s company. The song’s chorus references Chick-fil-A, the second largest chicken fast food restaurant in the US, which closes on Sunday for religious reasons. Dana White, a director of Collective Action for Safe Spaces, an organisation that works to build communities free from public sexual harassment and assault, said: “Kanye’s lyrics here are an anti-LGBTIQ stance with strategic timing.”
But the song could be nothing more than a reference to West’s well-documented love of fast food.
Malema was under fire for saying that the majority of Indian people are racist and was also accused of inciting racial division when he endorsed EFF spokesperson Mbuyiseni Ndlozi’s tweets about the Springboks having bigoted supporters, after the Boks won the Word Cup. But there was no public outcry that former Justice Zak Yacoob was inciting race tensions when he said that 90% of Indians were racist. Perhaps it is because he is Indian that he was spared criticism?
These examples are few of many that have led to repeated calls to cancel both West and Malema, two black leaders who have expressed keen interest in dealing with the various challenges faced by their communities and who continue to utilise their influence and financial muscle to radically tackle those issues.
Being cancelled is when someone or a group decides to stop supporting a person, organisation or idea because of a perceived offence. With roots in Black Twitter, cancel culture is an unavoidable mainstay of our infotainment age. In the collective, the gesture is absolute. It says “we can’t, we’re done”.
But cancellation without thought can be a hazardous game. If cancel culture is teaching everyone one thing it is that if someone does something wrong you must stop supporting them. Forget that they apologise or try to correct their behaviour, they should’ve known better before making the mistake.
Malema and the EFF have enjoyed real success since the party’s inception. They have caused trouble, rattled the political chain and have proven their mettle. The EFF placed land reform and youth unemployment on the political agenda and rejuvenated the National Assembly. In 2015, Malema led a crowd of more than 40 000 people, who embarked on a slow 20km march to the Reserve Bank and the Chamber of Mines before coming to a final stop at the JSE, to demand that all JSE-listed companies give meaningful shares to their employees and pay a minimum wage of R4 500, and that mineworkers must earn a minimum R12 500.
Malema wants to create one bank with interest rates set by the government. The national bank would act as a floor for savings returns and a ceiling for loan rates. I agree with his approach; black people are still routinely and systemically denied access to wealth. Why would banks give a black person a student loan, car loan and mortgage, but refuse to give them a business loan?
The reason is that the banking system of extermination by genocide would collapse should they finance black empowerment.
The Geneva Conventions clearly described genocide as any systematic programme put in place that seeks to harm, in part or in whole, entire groups of people and manifests itself as unfair treatment or any other quality of life issue that significantly diminishes that people’s ability to live a comfortable life.
Malema advocates prison reform. He announced in October that he had deployed the best legal brains to set free #FeesMustFall activist Kanya Cekeshe. Cakeshe was arrested in 2016 and pleaded guilty to setting a police van alight during the #FeesMustFall protests.
West’s wife, reality star, beauty mogul and businesswoman Kim Kardashian West, has been on a journey to secure freedom for Americans who she believes have been wronged by the justice system. Last year Kardashian West backed Alice Marie Johnson, a 63-year-old woman who had been serving a life sentence for a non-violent, first-time drug offence, which US President Donald Trump commuted. This was after the reality star visited the White House to discuss prison reform with the president. In the same year she launched an educational programme called Georgetown Prison Scholars, which affords male and female inmates the opportunity to enrol for courses on a variety of subjects. The aim of the programme is to educate and prepare incarcerated citizens for a positive role in their community after release.
Malema and West believe that once black people reclaim their land all races will be able to live side by side. They both recognise that many white people have done extraordinary things to fight segregation laws and improve the lives of black people. However, black people cannot operate on the world stage without owning land. Real people are connected to the idea of having their own land.
Even cities are designed to create problems that will create more industries. In response to this, West is bringing manufacturing back to the US. He is building factories on a ranch he recently purchased, where Yeezy products will be manufactured, and will hire people through prison and jobs reforms.
West owns 100% of the company. With no Instagram and having been cancelled, Yeezy is one of the most Googled brands on the planet, above Louis Vuitton and Adidas.
The multi-hyphenate purchased Monster Lake Ranch in Wyoming, US, for more than R200 million. According to the Powell Tribune, the property spans more than 3 643 hectares, of which about 1 619h are owned by West, while the rest is leased from the Bureau of Land Management.
The ranch has eight lodging units, two freshwater lakes, an events centre, meeting facilities, and is known for its monster trout.
This way West will be more hands-on with his designs, able to have rapid prototyping, and have the ability to push his product out faster.
Malema is resolute that becoming economically independent will aid black people on their road to racial reconciliation, that it is the only way that black people will cease to resent whites and blame them for societal ills.
West believes that the spending habits of the black community and the their misguided priorities lead to bad investments.
“We’re always pointing at the white people, but we want to spend all our money on foreign goods, on luxury goods, as opposed to going and buying some land,” West says.
Kobe Bryant won five National Basketball Association championships. Bryant sprained all kinds of muscles throughout his career, yet we do not make his legacy about one torn ligament. In the same vein, West’s legacy cannot be defined by the fact that he has mental health issues. Malema’s legacy, too, cannot be reduced to his comments about calls for the slaughter of white people.
Phahle is managing director at SIP Media
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