Media, Politics

Miyeni affair: Text, mines & videotape

By Carien Du Plessis 3 August 2011

It turns out ex-Sowetan columnist Eric Miyeni has already made a film star out of ANC Youth League leader Julius Malema, because they both seem to share a passion for the nationalisation of mines. CARIEN DU PLESSIS took a peek behind the saga.

The previous night Miyeni had hung up during a heated radio debate with City Press editor, Ferial Haffajee, following his vitriolic “necklacing” attack on her. But on Tuesday Eric Miyeni, who was fired for his Sowetan column on Monday which contained the attack, was back for more airtime when he called into Redi Tlhabi’s show on Talk Radio 702. It featured none other than Julius Malema.

On air Miyeni admitted he had not always agreed with Malema, but one thing was certain: “Your fight for economic freedom is good”. He added it was the single most important call since Nelson Mandela’s call for the ANC to take up arms 50 years ago. “Please carry on, we can’t have this poverty,” Miyeni said.

Malema reciprocated by saying “we need more Erics in this world”.

Of course, Malema’s plan to achieve economic freedom (in the youth’s lifetime) mainly revolves around the nationalisation of mines, an issue the ANC has agreed to debate and research after much forceful lobbying by its youngsters. Sometime-actor Miyeni has also done his bit for this debate, co-directing (with Navan Chetty) a feature film entitled “Mining for Change: A story of South African Mining”. The film, featuring pro-nationalisation advocates like Malema, but also more cautious voices like those of businessman Cyril Ramaphosa and NUM boss Frans Baleni, came out in March and did the rounds at the local Encounters film festival in June.

It is said to have been funded, in part, by an emerging black-owned mining company boss, Nchakha Moloi, of Motjoli Resources. Motjoli, together with Ayanda Bam’s Kuyasa Mining, another black-owned company, both of which stand to benefit from nationalisation, received considerable exposure in the film, where Moloi makes the point that the civilisation of African people has been directly interlinked with mining.

Miyeni’s project didn’t end with the film. He also used his Sowetan column to write about it. He mentioned the film as recently as last week, saying he was invited to give a lecture on the topic (but on that very same day he got into an argument with a group of students in a bar who told him to shut up because they believed he was “uneducated, poor, a talker who did nothing about his ideas”.

Two weeks before he had made an argument for nationalisation, attacking SACP general secretary Blade Nzimande for his scepticism about the project (Nzimande believes the calls are aimed at bailing out BEE companies, and not at helping the poor).

“Let’s be clear. Nationalisation calls are a response to the refusal of white industries, including mining, to help alleviate poverty. Blacks were the main contributors to South Africa’s political freedom for all,” he wrote.

Miyeni ends the column by asking Nzimande if it would be “okay for more of us blacks to get more government tenders to feed and educate our children while you search for an alternative to nationalisation please?”

In a column at the end of January, before the film came out, Miyeni made it clear he supported Malema’s viewpoint in the film. He said Malema’s views were “the most interesting, if not outright explosive”. Miyeni said he agreed with Malema’s “corruption charge” against South Africa’s mining companies (because they gave nothing back to the communities where they mined).

“So to all those who say black South Africans can’t take over mines and run them because they are corrupt, I say I’d rather have a million corrupt blacks than continue having millions of corrupt whites.”

He ends his column: “South African business is corrupt. That’s a given. We can’t stop black people entering it because of corruption. That’s like a thief eating food he stole from you and saying he won’t give back what he hasn’t eaten because you are a thief too!”

Avusa bosses on Tuesday took steps to strengthen the management at Sowetan and Sunday World, shipping in Charles Mogale and Herbert Mabuza (as reported in Daily Maverick). The fact that a columnist at the Sunday World, Kuli Roberts, was fired not too long ago for being racist towards coloureds made the Miyeni embarrassment twice as painful.

Insiders, however, said efforts were afoot to revamp the papers, and dropping Miyeni’s column within the next two months was part of Sowetan’s long-term plan anyway.

Malema came out in support of Miyeni on Tuesday, saying his axing showed “he touched the nerves of those who are in the pockets of white capital”.

Nerves were touched, indeed. DM

Read more:

  • Miyeni affair – the morning after in Daily Maverick;
  • Sowetan columnist spiked: Miyeni’s attack on Haffajee gets him booted at Daily Maverick.
  • Miyeni affair: Are the wrong heads rolling? at Daily Maverick.

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