Recently, South African Member of Parliament and opposition EFF leader, Julius Malema addressed the Oxford Union and was very candid about his approach to issues in his country. He has become the voice of the new generation of African leaders in the post-colonial era. His message resonates with many of the young people who do not have firsthand experience with the struggles of apartheid or colonialism. These are the born frees who yearn for self-actualization in the new and independent South Africa of their inheritance. These are the born frees who have witnessed their fathers negotiate on their knees (physically) with the mine owners at Marikana then face a firing squad for requesting a pay increase. What happened at Marikana is eerily similar to the apartheid era when a life was meaningless to the government that was ever so eager to kill. 21 years after independence, it is the children born to parents who bore the brunt of apartheid now reviewing what independence means and reevaluating the legacy of Nelson Mandela and the ruling ANC.
Africa is a continent where independence war heroes are infallible and assume a god like status in a society where the culture of silence rules. However, Julius Malema is asking and evaluating the legacy of these sacred leaders; Mandela and Mugabe. Many Africans hold them in high regard but when do we stop suffering in silence just so we can revere symbols rather than evaluate results.
Malema faces criticism as some see him as tarnishing the legacy of their beloved elders who brought political independence but left the future generations shackled with the chains of economic dependency. The liberation struggle is not a one man show but the purpose of history is to understand the consequences of the decisions that were made and the impact that they have on present and future generations. In Kenya, Namibia, Zimbabwe, South Africa the land question was and is a thorny issue but the main reason for fighting colonialism. Land is the foundation of wealth, land means ownership and ownership means wealth. The issues Malema brings up are not new or unique. We all think about them every day but few dare to bring it up.
The deviation from the Freedom Charter was the beginning of selling out of the revolution. When Mandela returned from prison he got separated from Winnie Mandela and went to stay in a house of a rich white man, he was looked after by the Oppenheimers, Mandela used to attend those club meetings of those white men who owned the South African economy.
The Nelson we celebrate now is a stage-managed Mandela who compromised the principles of the revolution, which are captured in the Freedom Charter. The Freedom Charter is the bible of the South African revolution. Any deviation from that is a sellout position. We normally don’t use phrases like Mandela sold out, he was too old, he was tired, he left it to us. We have to pick it up from where he left it. That’s why he said the struggle is not over; political freedom is incomplete without economic freedom. I will say Nelson took us to a point and left it to us to take it further. – Malema
Malema also accurately asserts the notion that Robert Mugabe is the symbol of economic empowerment for South Africa to follow. He understands that though Mugabe is his adviser and mentor his method of land redistribution was based on emotion rather than well thought out strategy. Robert Mugabe did not distribute land because he wanted to empower his people but because he wanted political mileage in the face of strong opposition from the Movement for Democratic Change. Despite Mugabe’s assertion that he is empowering the people, the economy remains in free fall and ZANU-PF has no idea how to fix it. Mugabe is too proud to admit that he is no longer capable and will drag the country and its people to the grave with him.
We are not going to do what the Zimbabweans have done; of drawing the blood of innocent people. There’s nothing wrong with (President Robert) Mugabe’s policy on land, but there’s everything wrong with the method used to obtain the land. We cannot have people killed, injured because you want your land back.
Mugabe had more than 25 years to pass legislation through democratic means that would systematically take the land back; he did not do anything about it. He only introduced that policy at a time when he was losing power, it was opportunistic. You ought to pass legislation through parliament in line with your constitution that will take land back to the hands of people.”- Malema
Those Africans across Africa and throughout the diaspora with a shallow understanding of Zimbabwean history will dismiss Malema’s up close and personal analysis of the Zimbabwean experimental land reform program and rely on sound bites. It is important to note that appearance should not be mistaken for reality. Image is not reality, sound bites are not truth and propaganda is not history. He recently addressed German business leaders and in the same speech (below) he echoed the same sentiments.