First published in the Daily Maverick 168 weekly newspaper.
“Political babies” the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) celebrate their eighth anniversary since their formation this week – a boisterous and tumultuous existence: irritable to some, and affirming and exciting to others, especially to the youth, the poor and the unemployed.
Teeming with exuberance as it should, Julius Malema’s political outfit is characterised by the tendency to punch above its weight, more often with determination to turn the tables against white people and their “black lackeys”, whom the party’s faithful see as part of the so-called “white monopoly capital” agenda.
President Cyril Ramaphosa, the judiciary and the media, among others, have not been spared from the brimstone of condemnation.
The vitriol is harsh in its wake; it discredits anyone it chooses. Deputy Justice Raymond Zondo, the chair of the Zondo Commission, continues to be rubbished by Malema, notwithstanding Malema is a parliamentary member representing the national legislature at the Judicial Service Commission.
Ramaphosa, says Malema, is a puppet who has political power thanks to the money he receives from “white capitalists”, propping him up to sustain his own business interests. There is not a shred of evidence to support such assertions, which many believe are motivated by Malema’s insatiable desire to elevate his political and personal status as well as his desire for “messiahship”.
But this is the EFF, and one has learnt that the organisation and its leader are prone to living in their own parallel universe with their own rules.
Malema believes he has political power he actually does not have, and he seems unwilling to accept that a country can only have one president at a time. His turn, if it comes, let the voters bring it forth.
As I reflect on what Malema’s game plan could be, I am reminded of how religious zealotry and fanaticism has spread in the country and the world. Juxtapose this with the following Malema enjoys and it is easy to envision what could be brewing in his mind. Could it be that his mind is embracing some mythical “messianic” thoughts – that he sees himself as a “messiah” to rid the country of “White Monopoly Capitalists”, and replace it with Radical Economic Transformation (RET) programmes?
A messiah, by definition, is some kind of religious liberator, the one anointed; the one capable of pulling others, the subordinates, out of human misery to lead them to a promised land of “milk and honey”.
Religious people who are blinded by their faith tend to believe in the infallibility of modern-day “prophets”. Many religious people of all creeds and beliefs, especially Christians, become adherents to fake ministries that they believe can pull them out of the rut, and earn them “heavenly rewards” in the “afterlife”. (It is also true that there are millions of faithful who exercise a measure of rationality about their faith, expecting nothing in the “afterlife” because their faith is rooted in a reality of rationality.)
German philosopher and economist Karl Marx wrote nearly two centuries ago that “religion is the opium of the masses”. Some people believe holus-bolus in religious dogmas without subjecting them to interrogation, accepting them as if they were the gospel truth without interrogating the contradictions embedded in them. Marx was loath to accept religious dogmas without searching for contradictions. He taught that it was worth the trouble to wrestle with a text, examine it thoroughly for pitfalls, before accepting its authenticity.
If Marx were alive, he would be appalled that young and old people join organisations or political parties without first thoroughly investigating their motives. He would tell them that dogma, like opium, dulls human senses, making them susceptible to being easily manipulated and taken for a ride.
It seems Malema is leading an organisation that sees him as a “messiah”. He projects himself as a “saviour” of the nation. In seeking to win the day, Malema has learnt the trick of discrediting others as “illiterates” undeserving of being listened to. If those he attacks do not look like him, he throws racist labels at them. If cosmetically they look like him, he describes them as “agents” of “White Monopoly Capital”. He uses the race card at every turn.
To win over the faithful, he has to create something spectacular. He cleverly conjures an image of a “devil”, and the devil is represented by industrialist Johann Rupert and businessperson Nicky Oppenheimer, impersonations of White Monopoly Capital.
He also brings into the fold a number of wealthy black people, whom he gladly and cynically labels as puppets and lackeys of White Monopoly Capitalists.
The political battle lines get drawn. On the one side, we have white monopoly capitalists, black or white, who are responsible for black poverty, landlessness and unemployment. On the other side, we have the true “revolutionaries”, led by the EFF, who are godly, carving for “our people” a new world. Malema, the modern-day Moses, is leading the “exodus” journey of the oppressed to the promised land.
Two years ago, addressing his supporters at a court hearing where he was a subject of prosecution, he said: “I do not want blacks to work for whites; I want you to work for yourselves; white people will work for you. That will be true freedom. You must teach them how to carry babies on their back.”
The tragedy of it all is that Malema is a legislator. He was elected to support a democratic state that espouses the advancement of human dignity, achievement of equality, nonracialism and nonsexism, supremacy of the Constitution and the rule of law.
In The Bill of Rights Handbook, authors Ian Currie and Johan de Waal write: “The Constitution must ensure that the state has enough power to govern, but at the same time the state’s power must be limited by the Constitution to ensure it does not violate the law or the human rights of its citizens.”
These words speak to what it could mean to live in a country that embraces constitutional democracy. They should guide us in creating a truly nonracial society, whatever our political beliefs or ideologies.
Political dictatorship is not good for any country. It is a regression, and we should steer clear of that path.
Steve Bantu Biko wrote: “We have set out on a quest for true humanity, and somewhere on the distant horizon we can see the glittering prize… In time we shall be in a position to bestow upon South Africa the greatest gift possible – a more human face.” DM168
This story first appeared in our weekly Daily Maverick 168 newspaper which is available for R25 at Pick n Pay, Exclusive Books and airport bookstores. For your nearest stockist, please click here.