On Friday night in Tshwane EFF leader Julius Malema sounded as if he had imbibed a black consciousness manuscript – until he pronounced that the thinking behind the EFF manifesto was to mirror “Chinese policy with South African characteristics”.
Many would be forgiven for thinking that Bikoism left the EFF when the now leader of Black First Land First (BLF), Andile Mngxitama, stopped smoking pipe with Malema. However, Malema revived that during the EFF pre-manifesto launch gala dinner in the capital city.
Undoubtedly – and if his speech was the cue – the EFF’s election approach would be a breath of fresh air compared to the DA’s hypercriticism of the ANC and the ANC’s romanticisation of the past. It sounded like something new in the current political discourse.
Malema juggled the concepts of black pride, self-respect and self love all in one speech. He spoke about self hate among black people, which, he said, affected service delivery, held them back in many aspects and emboldened the critics of transformation.
Not for a moment did he mention how the atrocities of colonialism and apartheid condemned the black race. It was deliberate, and the central theme of the early part of his presentation was about how the black race could pull itself out of the morass many found themselves in.
He was hard on incompetent public servants, equating them to their corrupt colleagues. “There are a lot of people who do not steal, but they are incompetent.” People just occupy positions and earn fat salaries but still do nothing to deliver services, he said.
“A small black company collapses because some lazy fellow decided to overlook the invoice. Without that money the small company will be out of business. Their (the public servant’s) job is to pay, by the way. They are not doing anything extraordinary. They wake up every day to pay people, but they do not do that and at the end of the month they get a salary.”
So, he said, when one says there is corruption they think you are not talking to them, and they are correct because they have not stolen anything. “And they are not corrupt, because they have not stolen anything. Then you hammer on corruption, but no one has stolen any money.”
He said a black person living in Sandton was no different from the one living in neighbouring Stjwetla informal settlement in Alexandra, except for the residential address.
He urged black business people to raise their standards because poor service on their part reflected on the entire black populace. “Black people must be professional and they must deliver quality. We must deliver quality, because our failure to deliver quality is a punishment for all black people.
“So they use your incompetence to deny other black people opportunities. Black failure affects all of us.”
Malema said black people often gave poor service to their kin, citing some lawyers and doctors as examples. “We cannot have black brothers doing that.”
He added: “Everything touched by blacks must be proper and professional to prove these people wrong, because their gospel is that we are not capable of delivering on anything. We keep on proving them right, that indeed we fail to deliver. So, blacks must deliver, especially if their clients are black people. You must serve them with respect and you must do more than what they expected from you.”
He said this was a sign of self-respect. “Your disregard of black people is a sign of disrespecting yourself, because in that black person you ought to see yourself.”
He said black people were victims of their own self hate. “So start having a conversation with yourself, and discover yourself, so that you provide a proper service to fellow black people.”
The EFF brand has undergone several phases of transformation since the party’s formation in 2013. Its Achilles heel has always been its failure to manage perceptions around the party, from supporters and doomsayers alike.
In 20 minutes of his speech Malema appeared to nail that on Friday.
Referring to China again, he said Jack Ma, co-founder of the Alibaba group, was proof that even communist and left-orientated governments produced millionaires, and that “there is nothing wrong” with that.