Malema brings down the house at BMF’s annual indaba
- Branko Brkic
- 10 Oct 2009 04:57 (South Africa)
You could almost hear wolf-whistles amid loud applause and laughter that punctuated Julius Malema’s keynote speech at the Black Management Forum’s annual meeting on Friday.
And when Malema said that “South African [black] leaders are seen as people who are corrupt with money, and like sex and alcohol” he almost brought the house down at Gallagher Estate in Midrand. You’ve got to hand it to the populist firebrand, he really knows how to wow his audience.
His expression alternated between the beatific smile of a baby and the thunderous visage of an angry young man. He was Thabo Mbeki, Steve Biko and Karl Marx rolled into one. His main thrust was that government pandered to markets in not appointing black Africans to the top posts in finance, economic planning and the Reserve Bank. And in a comment intended to make South Africa’s corporate titans wince, he said that Africans needed control of the land and the means of production.
But if anyone was tempted to tar Julius with a Marxist brush, the mercurial ANC youth leader was quick to say that if whites thought this was socialism or communism, it had more to do with the fact that blacks did not fight the struggle to change the names of the country’s streets, but to own the land and the broad economy.
“We do not want to drive whites into the sea, but to live in peace as the land belongs to all of us,” he said to loud applause. “But we need to teach them to allow us to be equal partners in the opportunities that are available. The inclusion of the black majority does not mean the exclusion of the white minority. If we wanted that we wouldn’t ask.”
If it doesn’t work out for Julius in politics, he might have a career as a stand-up comic: “And if whites do want to leave, you have the [jet] skis, so please before you go, leave the skis behind.” The house erupted.
Malema re-iterated the ANC’s true purpose is to emancipate black people in general, and Africans in particular, and that South Africa’s majority need water, schools and roads. “Apartheid left many blacks feeling that they could not be engineers or accountants, and gave them biblical studies instead,” he said to laughter. But he may have left some of his audience behind when he said that nationalisation of the mines would become a fact, because having JSE shareholdings in resources was just a salary and not true ownership.
There were other quieter moments too, as the delegates reflected on Malema’s take on the conference’s theme: “The paradox of leadership in a developmental state”. He struck a chord when he said the white owners of capital desecrate grave sites in order to dig up minerals, and that blacks would never allow that to happen. “Villagers will say… that capitalism and profits do not know spirits, but we know spirits,” he said.
In invoking his new bugbear, Nedbank, he said South African corporates continued to appoint Africans to token positions, alluding to the bank’s first black CFO, Raisibe Morathi, and allegations that she was stripped of the responsibilities of her white predecessor.
The paradox of leadership in South Africa saw the Minister of Social Development, Edna Molewa, also take to the podium, and appeal to delegates to help afford young people, especially rural women, the breaks that they deserve. There was no applause or laughter then, as the audience reflected on how to run a company while simultaneously taking on the role of shop steward.
Such is the paradox of South Africa’s socio-economic reality; a vast rural and peri-urban populace that needs access to education, jobs, skills and services, and a first-world corporate sector that is seen to shun inward investment while remaining all too lily-white.
Jimmy Manyi, re-elected as president of the BMF despite his controversial dual-role as director general in the department of labour, says attracting white people, public servants and younger members will be among the organisation’s primary goals in the next few years. And former BMF president, Nolitha Fakude, called on the private sector to try and understand legislation and government policies affecting companies.
So, while South Africa’s paradox of leadership is not a matter that would concern the capitalists of Wall Street and the City of London, it is something that has resonance for the beloved country
By Mark Allix
Read more: Business Report, City Press, ANC official website