Only representatives of US imperialists can question President Jacob Zuma’s decision to cancel Cuba’s R1.1 billion debt, ANC Youth League leader Julius Malema said.
Addressing thousands of young people attending the World Festival of Youth and Students in Atteridgeville’s Lucas Moripe Stadium, Tshwane, yesterday Malema commended Zuma for his courage.
He also slated the Democratic Alliance (DA), calling it a representative of imperialists in the country.
“It’s a wonderful and brave step. I know the imperialists were worried by that effort. The representatives of those imperialists here at home in the form of the Democratic Alliance have a problem.
“The people of Cuba did not pay R1 billion for our freedom but paid the highest price – with their lives, we owe it to them,” he said.
“We will not be ashamed to be associated with them.”
When the news of the cancelled debt broke last week, South Africans expressed differing views.
The DA said government’s decision to write off R1.1 billion of debt owed by Cuba raised questions about the priorities and objectives of the Zuma administration.
“One has to wonder what the Zuma administration wishes to achieve by buying better relations with Cuba,” said the party’s foreign affairs spokesperson Kenneth Mubu.
He said government was not promoting a sensible foreign policy either, by building ties with one of the world’s last remaining socialist states.
Malema extended his gratitude to Zuma who was sitting on stage waiting to address the youth, saying it was a privilege to have such a “fearless” President and that Zuma did not owe anyone an explanation.
Malema also seized the moment to reflect on the call for nationalization, elaborating on the importance of “reclaiming resources of the country”.
He said the youth would continue to engage on the matter without an apology to anyone, not even Britain which he referred to as “the colonisers”.
“Economies are a reflection of colonisers. As long as we have not attained the economy, then it means we have no freedom for the people.”
He reiterated his call for free education.
Malema spoke strongly against human rights violations in many countries, reminding them that “the youth always kept the fires burning” even in the midst of the fight for liberation.
He mentioned among other countries Western Sahara and Pakistan. He called “apartheid Morocco” to decolonise western Sahara.
Should that country refuse to give the people of Western Sahara their freedom, then Zuma must remove Moroccan embassies from South Africa, he said.
“We cannot house apartheid regime in South Africa.”
Swaziland was also not spared in the tongue lashing as Malema demanded people of Swaziland their constitutional freedom.
He also wanted the total closure of African command in Botswana by the US command centres which he said were not in the interest of the people but rather were the US’s way of trying to invade countries with different views.
He described the festival attended by thousands of young people from over 100 countries as a historical gathering and reminded them about the need to continue fighting for economic power.
“We will never sell you out. We will always be with you. Never forget where we come from.”
Malema reminded them that in their continued fight for a better life, they did not learn from Hollywood stars but rather from revolutionaries like former President Nelson Mandela and Cuba’s Fidel Castro among others.
The stadium roared out a revolutionary song after Malema’s speech.
Like Malema, Zuma in his speech also reiterated the problem of economic marginalisation faced by many developing countries, saying this was “the imperialism facing of our time“.
He said most of the formerly oppressed nations were not economically independent, with a majority of people living in poverty. This was one problem that needed to be dealt with.
“The pervasive poverty ravaging the world has a very broad and adverse effect on the global community, as it diverts attention from other challenges,” he said.
Zuma identified education as one of the casualties.
According to United Nations statistics, R130 million youth worldwide lacked basic reading and writing skills, 61 percent of whom were female.
“As government, we have the challenge to ensure that not only school but tertiary education as well are accessible and we have to explore ways and means of improving this access.”
Zuma said it was only through education that the youth could provide solutions to the many vexing problems in the word.
He also spoke of the high levels of unemployed youth, highlighting a need to open opportunities for youth in entrepreneurship so that they could create employment for themselves.
In welcoming delegates, Zuma urged them to continue assisting governments towards achieving quality education, the right to employment and for access to health and other socio-economic facilities.
The festival, held under the theme “Let’s Defeat Imperialism“, was being hosted by the National Youth Development Agency (NYDA) in partnership with the World Federation of Democratic Youth. It was scheduled to end on December 21.
R69 million had been budgeted for the event hosted by the National Youth Development Agency. Of this amount R40 million had come from the National Lotteries Board.
It attracted thousands of young people from over 100 countries and planned to include conference sessions focusing of social, political and economic issues facing the youth.