Politics

Malema to students: You are a generation of economic freedom fighters

By Carien Du Plessis 5 August 2011

ANC Youth League leader Julius Malema and his predecessor Fikile Mbalula kicked up so much dust addressing a bunch of students that CARIEN DU PLESSIS is now convinced the heat is rising in Juju’s kitchen again – though no one seems to know exactly what is cooking ahead of his posse’s meeting with the ANC on Monday. Here's what happened.

The more pressing the crisis, the more complex Fikile Mbalula’s words. He is a man who only relaxes into monosyllables once he’s sure of victory. And on Thursday night – as a support act to ANC Youth League leader Julius Malema – Mbalula  treated an audience of University of Johannesburg students to a razzmatazz of compound words and sentences, as if repeatedly attempting to cock a machine gun.

Marxists said the speech, of which hard copies were thankfully given to shorthand-weary journalists, made perfect sense to them, and most of those who half-filled the university’s hall on the Soweto campus, listened intently, cheering loudly and giggling quietly in the right places.

Mbalula went all out to defend Malema, his friend and number-one supporter, against “attacks” by the media and an exposure of his secret family trust fund stash. This is because erstwhile ANC organiser and veteran obfuscator is going to need Malema’s motor mouth as he guns for the ANC secretary general position next year.

Things still kind of made sense when the minister of sport got in a jibe at his fellow cabinet minister (of higher education) and SACP general secretary, Blade Nzimande, by slamming “those who claim to be left or socialists or even claim to be communists to fly around coughing insults and labelling fellow comrades demagogues without intellectually engaging their thought particularly on pressing issues in society” (if there is no comma in this sentence, it is because there was none).

“Demagogue” is a code-word used by Nzimande for Malema ahead of Malema’s re-election in June.

Mbalula also defended Malema against the media: “They say Malema has a secret trust. He should have had it in Switzerland or Monaco. How can you have a secret trust under the rule of law in South Africa?”

Then Mbalula got a bit nostalgic. Following reports that the Hawks and South African Revenue Services are looking into Malema’s financial affairs, he reminded of a time when ANC succession battles were fought through state institutions (Jacob Zuma’s trial on corruption charges was seen as such a time).

He portrayed the media as sadists, calling them “scavengers” who subject ANC leaders to “kangaroo courts” as a hobby. Of course, the recent Eric Miyeni [http://dailymaverick.co.za/article/2011-08-04-harber-on-miyeni-avusa-and-responsible-editors] saga didn’t help much either.

“If the media would like to operate like the apartheid media in a democratic and free society, then they are free to do so, but they should not blame our people when they treat them like apartheid skeletons in a democratic and free society and crush them and throw them into the dustbin of history with their friends.”

He also defended African nationalism: “We are fully aware of a tendency that attempted to dislodge the content of the national democratic revolution by, among other things, dismissing race as less important a social category in contemplating any social progress.”

This was followed by vintage Mbalula, but we’re still trying to figure out what the next sentence means (most probably the same as the sentence above): “We are aware of the ultra-leftist tendencies that were aimed at uplifting pseudo-Marxist predispositions at the expense of the revolutionary recognition of the symbiotic link between national liberation and social emancipations, born out of the acknowledgement of the interplay between the national oppression and class exploitation, in the context of the national democratic revolution.” Huh?

Malema, who got a warm reception of cheers, spoke before Mbalula, and it was clear he wanted to create a brand new generation of economic freedom fighters, one that would stand out as Malema-generation in the history books.

“Every generation must have a mission. You cannot just be called a Boom Shaka generation. From now on you’re a generation of economic freedom fighters and that is how you define yourself,” he told the youngsters.

“Those pictures you have in your room, those pictures of socialites and celebrities. You should replace them with pictures of revolutionaries,” he said, so that they could be the conscience of the person who put up the pictures in the first place.

He reminded people of the pain of poverty and outlined reasons why mines should be nationalised (mining bosses hardly ever invest properly in communities around their mines, he said) and beneficiation should take place.

He lashed out at the “five families controlling the economy” who all live in Stellenbosch.

Other than this, however, it’s almost beginning to feel like a collective déjà vu of April last year, when Malema kicked up a storm as he was about to be disciplined among others for sowing divisions and for contradicting Zuma on Zimbabwe foreign diplomacy aspects.

He said the ANC was entitled to its internal differences, and membership was voluntary. “There is no man that can push us out of the ANC. This ANC does not belong to a faction or a clique. This ANC belongs to you and you decide who you want or don’t want,” he said

All this noise was about reminding the ANC that it had to do with a firebrand who can turn votes against leaders, or who can (again) at some point threaten to open skeleton-infested cupboards.

He again elaborated on Botswana, over which even ANC secretary general Gwede Mantashe rebuked them, saying the league would “openly associate” with parties with the same outlook as they had and would support them with “strategy and tactics” tips. The Botswana National Front was such a party.

“There is a difference between diplomacy and progressive internationalism. We are not diplomatic. We are engaged in progressive internationalism,” he said.

He then went on to criticise judges as being on the side of white capital, and warned that they are often used by minorities (or whites) to overturn the decisions of the majority. Predictably he also used his speech to attack the media (see below for Miyeni quote), to call for free education, economic upliftment, the expropriation of land without pay.

Mobilisation for the rally was left very late and happened in only a day (unlike the building of Rome). Events on Thursday night were billed for 18:00 but characteristically started almost two hours late. Even though the slightly impatient audience was incredulous when told, once again, that the meeting was about to start, they did not leave even when they got tired of waiting. It seems to have been worth it, as one audience member in fits of laughter added meaning to messaging shorthand, “ROTFL. LMAO”. Whatever. DM


Malema’s Thursday night wisdom:

“The reason the whites subjected us to bantu education is because they know we possess a natural talent and if we’re given education similar to them, we’re going to be better than them.”

“Education must be free from pre-tertiary level to tertiary level. Education cannot be a commodity. Education is a right.”

“Mandela was not released by De Klerk. Mandela was released by the people of SA. We don’t owe our freedom to De Klerk. De Klerk remains the enemy, like he was at that time… We don’t have a crisis of heroes in SA. We are spoilt for choice. We have many heroes in Soweto. We don’t need De Klerk to have a role model.”

“Those pictures you have in your room, those pictures of socialites and celebrities. You should replace them with pictures of revolutionaries. So that when you’ve done something wrong and you go home in the evening you find a pic of OR looking at you. When you go this side it is like the eyes are moving with you, when you go that side it’s as if the eyes are moving with you.”

“We are told we cannot change property relations because the Constitution does not allow. They even said for us to change property relations we need 75% in Parliament That is not true. They go on misleading our people. We need 66%. And from where things are now we can change that Constitution.”

“Five families are controlling economy of SA. All of them in Stellenbosch. The Stellenbosch mafia have spoken. They have spoken against nationalisation, the expropriation of land without compensation because they know they stand to lose.”

“What divides SA is economic inequalities, so what disunity are you talking about. It is nationalisation that will unite us. We can no longer say SA belongs to all of us black and white but you have nothing to show you are an owner of this country.”

“Every generation must have a mission. You cannot just be called a Boom Shaka generation. From now on you’re a generation of economic freedom fighters and that is how you define yourself.”

“What made Johannesburg what it is, is the discovery of gold. The discovery of diamonds should have made Kimberley look like Johannesburg. The discovery of platinum should have made Rustenburg look like Johannesburg.”

“We did not fight for blue lights. We did not fight for ministerial posts. We fought to bring bread to the table. Once we fail to bring bread to the table the struggle is not over.”

“If you want to be celebrated you must not be a coward. Cowards die many times.”

“We know what it means to turn a kitchen into a bedroom in the evening. We know what it’s like to go to school without shoes or hungry. We know that pain. We have seen our mothers come home without a smile. Our fathers, garden boys. Even when they were old they were called garden boys. That money given to them could not even pay for your school fees. When we see people living like that the pain comes back. It doesn’t matter if you’re successful or live in Sandton and live like a coconut.”

“There is a difference between diplomacy and progressive internationalism. We are not diplomatic. We are engaged in progressive internationalism.”

“They use the judiciary to undermine the popular view because nobody elected judges. In a court the position of the majority can be overturned by a minority.”

“Judiciary must be criticised so that it sharpens its tools to reinforce freedom and democracy. This freedom is not going to be surrendered to the judiciary. If you want to surrender your freedom to judges (you can do so), but that is not what Freedom Charter demanded. It said the people shall govern.”

“(Eric) Miyeni decided to write an article and write a dissent and they fire him because the media is run by a group of friends, by a cabal, and if you break ranks with that cabal they isolate you. This media did not defend Eric’s right of freedom of expression, did not defend Eric’s right to press freedom. They expelled him. That is the type of life we lead in SA. If you don’t agree with the cabal, they kick you out. We must support Eric and many other journos who write like Eric. We must liberate these journos from white editorial rooms. If you fight the mainstream they isolate you. The media in SA is intolerant of a different view. They are the biggest purgers because Eric spoke without fear and favour. Don’t be scared of the baas. When there is a need to confront the baas, you must confront the baas. You lose nothing. You only lose a job and you remain with your soul intact.”

“If you sell your soul, (and if) your soul wants a beautiful woman, you just go hehehehe. You’ll never get anything beautiful because you are a coward. Cowards don’t get beautiful things. You must express yourselves, let your souls come out freely.”


Photo: Reuters.

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