Julius Malema: Role Model or Menace To Society?
Julius Malema, president of the ANC Youth league in South Africa, first caught my attention when he vowed that he would take up arms for the cause of Jacob Zuma. I believe he made this comment when the battle for the leadership for the ANC was raging between Thabo Mbeki and Zuma faithful camps. “We are prepared to take up arms and kill for Zuma, we are prepared to die for Zuma,” he said. I thought, if a young man from Nigeria would come out and be this fiery, I wonder how long he will last and who would most likely be afraid of him? I am still on the look out for Nigeria’s own Julius Malema, though we may have him already in the form of MEND.
In a BBC Online story, Andrew Harding, a correspondent based in South Africa, describes Malema, saying, “He is 28, a little overweight, impeccably dressed, and rather fond of referring to himself with the royal “we”. He is also, without doubt, the most divisive, the most ridiculed, and for some, the most alarming public figure in South Africa today.” In my opinion, nothing beats this description. Harding didn’t say he was fat, he said, he was a little overweight. I love English language, you can call someone a fool without using the word ‘Fool.’
Malema is a lot of things, the most obvious being, he is an influential figure even if no one likes to admit he does have a lot of power under his belt. I could go on and on as to what many have called him, however, that is not my concern. I will leave that to the people of South Africa to decide as to what Malema is for them. The only thing that has got me curious is how he got so powerful? He wields power and authority like the president of the nation, a position I believe he has neither earned nor deserve. If he continues like this, I wonder how long he will last? You could easily call Malema, a well dressed thug but be aware, what he says whenever he opens his mouth goes a long way for the thousands of South Africans, who support him. Some argue he is speaking for them, making him the voice for the voiceless, a crown that works wonders for those who take up causes others walk away from. Malema speaks for the poor people of South Africa and what he has to say reaches the core of their plight. So, tell me, would you not support him? Finally, someone is saying what you have always wanted to say but you have never had or been given the platform to do just that.
You could easily pick Malema apart based on his actions since he became a prominent figure within the ANC. Let’s see, he caused an uproar with his comment about the lady, who had accused the then, Zuma, now president, of rape.
- When Jacob Zuma was accused of rape and later acquitted, The ANC Youth League leader had said the woman must have had a “nice time” because in the morning she had “requested breakfast and taxi money”. I believe this was how he put it based on what has been widely reported, “When a woman didn’t enjoy it, she leaves early in the morning. Those who had a nice time will wait until the sun comes out, request breakfast and ask for taxi money.” For this, he was ordered by Equality Court judge to make an unconditional apology and pay 50,000 rand ($6,700; £4,500) to a centre for abused women.
- Then, the young fella proceeded to insult the former Education Minister, Naledi Pandor, a respected figure within the ANC during an address to students who were protesting in Pretoria. He said, “Let the minister use that fake accent to address our problems and not behave like a spoilt minister.” Hell to the no! You insult somewhere like that where I come from and they are in a position of power to make your life a living hell, you best be praying for your survival in the political circle.
- When accused of living a lavish lifestyle by using his influence to win contracts for people, Malema claimed he was the victim of a smear campaign. I guess you can understand why people would easily point at his lifestyle. If you claim you are a voice for the poor, they may well say, live like one. He would go on to say he is also a victim of a political conspiracy and a racist plot. For a man with his temper, fiery mouth and power, he sure plays the victim card a lot. Sorry, I could not help myself on that one.
- The one that has had many people talking recently is the fact that Malema gladly used his singing skills to serenade students in Johannesburg when he sang a protest song from the apartheid-era with the words, “Kill the Boer, kill the farmer.” What a trap he set for himself because after the murder of Eugene Terreblanche, some people blamed this action for the events that started to unfold. Some from the white quarter told reporters they believe, it was because Malema sang the song, that’s why their man got killed. Though there are indications to suggest race could well not have been the motivating factor for the murder but a dispute over pay and allegations of sexual assault while the investigation goes on. However it reminded us of South Africa’s racial divides and tensions.
These are a few of the many famous outburst and incidents under Malema’s belt.
He has ruffled a few feathers and those people in turn have branded him a mere political puppet, used to deliver the messages some sections of the ANC do not want to be seen as promoting publicly. Whatever the case may be, he is quick to let his accusers know they are racists colonialists and their time is up. You gotta love the dude!
And so, Malema also brings another issue to our attention, democracy and free speech. Is he is a sign that democracy in South Africa is flourishing or is he sign of things to come – in the form of a tyrant/dictator. Again, I would like to leave that to South Africans to decide. However, it is clear for all to see that some White South Africans do find Malema scary and may well be afraid of him and what he is capable of. Though no one wants to acknowledge that factor publicly, I just did, so you all can breathe. In the same vain, you do have to ask, if you can really trust Malema and the values he says he stands for? I too find him scary and, for a man who predicted the demise of Thabo Mbeki before Mbeki knew what was coming to him, I would say be very afraid of Malema and tread carefully.
In spite of everything I have read and heard of Malema, it was this video – Malema Ejects BBC Journalist - that made me sit up and ask if he was a role model or menace to society? He ordered the BBC journalist, Jonah Fisher out of a news conference and was sure to let Fisher know what was on his mind by calling him a ‘bastard’ and an ‘agent.’ Ain’t that something? If you look closely, everyone in the room is quiet and no one is saying a thing. I have no idea why, maybe they were in shock or Malema was just too powerful for them to stand up and say anything.
Whatever the case maybe, I think this young man needs to be watched closely and young South Africans need to ask themselves if this is the man they want speaking for them. These images and outbursts are beamed around the globe and you now how stereotypes start, so chew on that for a moment.
For me, Malema does not represent the type of leader I want now or in the future. You can be fiery and civil to people. You can be a firebrand politician, known for taking actions and is assertive without inciting others with your choice of words ( I am not referring to the Terreblanche murder) but Malema’s general outburst and choice of words, which could be interpreted by impressionistic young people who want to be heard and think Malema’s way is the way to achieve that. I guess what I am yet to figure out is who is behind him and why he believes he can do what he wants and get away with it. How did a 28-year-old, get so powerful when he holds no political office, yet has the power to have South Africans up-in-arms about his actions and leave them divided? I wonder if the ANC is now thinking about what to do with Malema? Zuma asked that people give him time because he is a young man still learning, well, we have been at this since 2008, two years is a long time not to learn anything.
I guess when you have had the president’s ears and attention for as long as Malema has and Zuma, in the past has referred to him as ‘a leader in the making, then I wonder the land Malema is going to lead South Africa? From what I can deduce, it sure ain’t the promise land if he carries on like this.
Julius Malema – Oupa Nkosi
Malema with President Zuma – Reuters