Brad Cibane
Brad Cibane

Malema still holds us captive

Laura Fitzpatrick in a Time Magazine article explained the phenomenon commonly known as “the Stockholm syndrome”. She explained that the syndrome is ”the phenomenon in which victims display compassion for and even loyalty to their captors”. Sound familiar?

It’s been over a year since our unrelenting saviour put Julius Malema’s political career to rest. Even after the National Disciplinary Committee of Appeals and National Executive Committee put nails to the coffin, it seems there is no national sigh of relief or billboards hailing our miraculous saviour. If anything — and only the truly brave are willing to admit — we secretly miss Malema.

Malaika Wa Azania recently appealed to us not to “throw Malema into the dustbin of history.” But Wa Azania is not alone. Protesting Marikana mineworkers reportedly greeted Malema with cheer while they heckled President Jacob Zuma. Even the riotous Sasolburg protesters apparently pleaded for Malema to make an appearance.

So if Malema was a plague that tormented us since 2008, why do we secretly miss him? If his cause was nothing but lunacy and a con for self-enrichment, why does it resonate more than a year after his departure? Maybe it’s time we admitted we cannot determine whether Malema was “good” or “bad” simply by how he makes us feel.

First we must admit that Malema is no Obama, he is no 1944 Mandela either. While the cause of the ANC Youth League against a complicit mother body is very similar to the cause of the Young Turks that led to the formation of the Youth League in 1944, the methods were very different. Malema was less benign in his cause and more inclined to abuse the cause for self-enrichment.

That being said, Malema had something for every South African. For the ultra-right white conservatives Malema was a walking exhibition of “die swart gevaar”. He was proof to the world that the fear was justified. I suspect he made many people reconsider exodus to Perth and Ontario. For the ultra-left Marxist/socialist, Malema was the missing voice. He was the firebrand the left needed to keep its cause afloat. For the liberals, Malema was the alarm bell that they’ve been sounding since before Steve Biko. He was an affirmation of their call for compromise. For comedians, Malema was a lot of material.

Most important, however, was Malema’s effect on the ordinary, open-minded and politically-unaligned South African. To these South Africans who escaped the hold of the past, and tried each day to forget it, Malema was a window opening. He was a reminder that South Africa didn’t go to bed as a wounded society on April 26 1994 and then wake up miraculously healed on May 10 1994.

If someone like Malema can get the nation to rally behind his cause, if he can get scores of youths to chant “we will kill” — something is seriously wrong. The rather obvious diagnosis that something is wrong raises further questions.

I suggest the starting point in our search for the ”something” must be Malema’s politics. Malema shot to mainstream fame (outside the ANC) when the youth league, under his leadership, formulated the “Economic Freedom in Our Lifetime” campaign. As Eusebius McKaiser and Ebrahim Fakir point out, the campaign headline made it rather incongruous. At an ideological level “economic freedom” means the opposite of what Malema and the ANCYL intended. But not many people are concerned with ideological congruity.

To the ordinary ”sophisticated” South African, the notion of “economic freedom” rings alarm bells for two reasons. Firstly, because the campaign relied exclusively on the now-defunct provisions of the Freedom Charter that call for state ownership. Experience has taught South Africans that the government is not the best owner of economic entities. Secondly, the campaign sought inspiration from the National Democratic Revolution (NDR). Despite the word “Democratic,” the NDR has its roots in Vladimir Lenin’s theory of imperialism and is considered by many to be a communist or socialist ideal.

But what if we discarded the rhetoric and salvaged the message of the youth league? The youth league essentially wanted what many South Africans want: 1) Equal sharing of natural resources. This is fair because according the Mineral and Petroleum Resources Development Act and the Mining Charter natural resources belong to all South Africans. 2) Fair distribution and equal ownership of land. This is not an unreasonable request because those who own land today did not obtain it through sweat and tears but through Land Act usurpation and Land Bank Act subsidies. 3) Empowerment of groups disempowered by more than three centuries of domination. 4) Quality education. Now this is a far-fetched dream!

To conclude, I think the reason we miss Malema is because he did more than just hold us captive. He was the intervention we need to save us from ourselves.

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  • 20 Responses to “Malema still holds us captive”

    1. Idealist #

      “Despite the word “Democratic,” the NDR has its roots in Vladimir Lenin’s theory of imperialism and is considered by many to be a communist or socialist ideal.” Indeed. The NDR is ‘democratic’ in the same way that the German Democractic Republic was democratic, or the Democratic Peoples Republic of Korea is democratic. In ANC-speak, ‘democratic’ means, as you noted, the absolute tyranny of an elite, unelected, totalitarian communist gang. And this is not a value judgement – it’s a simple fact.

      January 29, 2013 at 5:12 pm
    2. Is it just journalists who miss him?

      January 29, 2013 at 5:12 pm
    3. Momma Cyndi #

      …. or was he simply a media creation?

      The Youth League has had many good suggestions and many good ideas but that doesn’t necessarily mean that they belonged to Malema or that his abrasive, childish and violent rhetoric was a way to address those issues.

      I’m not sure where you get some of your facts from. The minerals do indeed already belong to all of us. They are administered by the government we have elected and they ‘sell’ those rights and collect royalties on those minerals to (supposedly) share with us all.

      The Land Bank gave lower interest loans. They didn’t give farms away. If they did then they wouldn’t have had to repossess so many farms. To say that families who took two generations to pay off their Landbank loans got their land without ‘sweat and tears’ is a bit unfair on them. They worked and cried and fought with the control boards all through their struggle to pay off those loans.

      Whilst I agree that it would be nice if everyone owned their own land, we only have a limited amount of arable land and a hell of a lot of people to feed. I am far more worried about food security and what is done with the land than with who is doing the farming of the land. You can’t eat dirt and you can’t feed a whole country on sustenance farming. The land audit hasn’t been completed (5 years later) and the parameters have been changed so many times that it is a waste of time anyhow. Maybe the government found out that they actually own most of…

      January 29, 2013 at 5:17 pm
    4. Sibu #

      You are quite right that many of the visions of the youth league were good and noble. The means to get there were the problem. Malema promised more crony capitalism – more patronage, corruption, and installing of a new faction of rotten party deployees sucking money out of the state, rather than the current faction. In this sense, he promised nothing new – just more of the same. Crony mafia capitalism pretending to be socialism. The pity of course is that the ANC did not kick him out because of his ideals, but just because of the threat he posed to the current faction of crony capitalists.

      January 29, 2013 at 5:22 pm
    5. Albert Maribe #

      i’m not an economist, so I dont understand the nationalisation, but I have a queation, If we own the mines, and we corrupt as they say, but we know everything end here in our beloved country, is better to take everything to americans ??? i still don’t understand why they say we are corupt we cant manage the mines, but still we are getting a little from those mines, everyti,e they threaten to let go 14000 miners, the same same government should step in. We realy need to look in to this, I miss Malema a lot.

      January 29, 2013 at 5:29 pm
    6. MrK #

      Excellent article,

      ” The youth league essentially wanted what many South Africans want:

      1) Equal sharing of natural resources. This is fair because according the Mineral and Petroleum Resources Development Act and the Mining Charter natural resources belong to all South Africans.

      2) Fair distribution and equal ownership of land. This is not an unreasonable request because those who own land today did not obtain it through sweat and tears but through Land Act usurpation and Land Bank Act subsidies.

      3) Empowerment of groups disempowered by more than three centuries of domination.

      4) Quality education. Now this is a far-fetched dream! ”

      In other words, people want good housekeeping from the state. The Commons belong to everyone colletively, which means they must be owned by the state. The only alternative is that it is owned by private corporations, whose only real loyalty and accountability are to their shareholders, who may live on the other side of he world.

      The efficiency argument against state ownership is overturned by the efficient exploitation of resources for the benefit of shareholders in Switzerland, the USA or UK, which benefits South Africans nothing. In fact it efficiently steals their resources, while leaving them to clean up the environmental mess.

      January 29, 2013 at 7:25 pm
    7. MrK #

      If all the value of natural resources went to the state, there would be more than enough money for expansion of the economy into agriculture, manufacturing and services, there would be money for free education through college, and there would be money for reinvestment into infrastructure that actually helps the population, rather than just the private corporations in their quest to extract as much wealth from South African soil as quickly and cheaply as possible. This is the kind of ‘efficiency’ everyone can do without.

      To the shame of the ANC, they are tolerated in power because they do not question the De Beers ownership of the mines, and have not effectively redistributed the land to the general population.

      If they did, you would hear no end of media stories on Jacob Zuma’s wifes, AIDS, violent crime and other ‘Crisis In South Africa’ type reporting. This is their standard method of operations.

      This is why and how they turned on Zimbabwe – remember the great press Zimbabwe used to get before land reform in 2000, in fact President Mugabe even received an honorary knighthood – Knight Commander in the Order of Bath, in 1994 – the year the ANC came to power, not a coincidence because it was the ANC who asked Zimbabwe to go slow on landreform.

      January 29, 2013 at 7:25 pm
    8. bernpm #

      Interesting take. Do I miss him?? Not at all, the gap he left has been sufficiently filled with other characters from the mother party. The issues addressed by Malama:
      1) Equal sharing of natural resources?: the sharing could be easy, it is the digging that creates the problems. The resources are the output of an industrial process.
      2) Fair distribution and equal ownership of land? The total surface of SA land is 1,219,090 km2. Divide that over 50,000,000 people and each get 0,024 km2.
      3) Empowerment of groups disempowered by more than three centuries of domination? Looking at the looting during the latest strike actions in the various places, many groups have empowered themselves.
      4) Quality education. Now this is a far-fetched dream! Difficult to achieve when parents begin to close schools, kids take part in the protests, while the latest message from a NCape education authority was: “we have a process in place, to start the process”.

      Do I miss Malema? No, there is enough daily fun to be had by simply following the news produced by government officials.

      The call for “economic freedom”? Sounds like blowing a vuvuzela, lots of noise with no substance. SA has freedom of speech, freedom of movement and a few other freedoms. Malema then calls for the only one freedom that has never existed and will never exist anywhere in the world.

      January 29, 2013 at 11:21 pm
    9. The Creator #

      McKaiser and Fakir are talking hypocritical rubbish in their article, which is neoliberal claptrap masquerading as political analysis.

      Malema has been destroyed, but all the political issues which he raised and which Zuma is refusing to address — poverty, unemployment, inequality and Western imperialism — are still very much here. They will not be driven away by purging the Alliance of all its intellectuals and dissidents.

      In my view Malema was overly simplistic, but at least he took a stand — which is why the cowardly collaborators of the Alliance hated him.

      January 30, 2013 at 9:06 am
    10. Do we miss Julius Malema – or maybe just miss being able to write about him? http://paulwhelanwriting.blogspot.com/2013/01/dont-cry-for-mr-malema-south-africa.html?m=1

      January 30, 2013 at 10:06 am
    11. TumiM #

      By far the most level headed take on any subject matter (let alone something as controversial as Julius Malema), I have read in a very long time. Thank you.

      I must admit though, I don’t miss him. I have come into contact with many young people doing great work, asking hardball questions about the structure of the economy etc, without the bigotry. We must learn to raise up young people who do more than just talk loudly. But those that walk their talk.

      January 30, 2013 at 10:56 am
    12. Orlando #

      ”To conclude, I think the reason we miss Malema is because he did more than just hold us captive. He was the intervention we need to save us from ourselves”.

      Dear Cibane,

      History will make you feel proud one day.

      You are absolutely correct.

      I did post my comments on Azania appeal article and l am doing right now again with the same patriotism and courage: Forget JM about personal character and be concentrated on his message of the urgent necessity of ANOTHER form of country resources and land. Let us exerciser the citizenship right of indignation and contest what is currently wrong. The percentage of people who’s going poor and poor is growing in a daily basis, specially the black people [which coincidently is the majority in the Republic of South Africa]

      Democracy does not mean ANYTHING unless peoples have opportunity to refuse to remain poor and out of the most basic needs such as education, health care and decent job.

      Mikhail Gorbachiov [Last President of Russia Republic] has been once quoted saying that “some academics and intellectuals prefer to behave like prostitutes at the time of SOCIAL or POLITICAL CRISES at contemporary societies.

      January 30, 2013 at 12:31 pm
    13. Orlando #

      The concepts of elder, ill discipline and etc will not survive. Look around almost all African countries and you will easily conclude that our old and disciplined heroes do not represent currently any example to be followed by us. For what reason did we praise our leaders or freedom fighters if we cannot disagree with them on items that can put our surviving as human being in danger?

      Most of our so called civil society organizations have surrender to the Capital as well to the Political Powers and therefore do not have either moral or courage to say ABSOLUTELY nothing. Likely we do have COSATU which although week steel play some role. Look around SA! What do we have?

      I know perfectly Southern Africa region and l am following carefully what is currently happening in our mother land. There’s any other country at SADC region with a courageous youth leader like JM?

      There’s any country around us with demonstrated mobilization capacity like JM to criticize the ruling political power and confront the capital specially the white one? Personally l am worried with the suspicious silence of the youth now. Haven’t they been captured? Is JM gone out with our collective warrior proud?

      I will come back soon!!!

      January 30, 2013 at 12:32 pm
    14. Stephen #

      Such rubbish with such conviction. The hopes and aspirations of the ANC Youth League are perfectly reasonable, but what have they to do with this prat? Furthering his own personal agenda at their expense. Quite probable that the charges against him will be proved: de facto stealing from the masses to enrich himself.

      People like Breitling Boy are an incentive for whites to leave.

      Equal sharing of SA’s resources will probably never happen. Sure, whites will own less and less, but fewer and fewer blacks will own more and more. And the economoically disenfranchised Youth will become ever more p*ssed off.

      I wonder how many classrooms could be built, or teachers trained or, text books bought if one could sell the assets Juju accumulated in his brief time in the sun on the SA landscape.

      January 30, 2013 at 1:02 pm
    15. Comrade Koos #

      The ANC cannot afford to charge Julius Malema, too many of the leading elite will be exposed, Julius knows too much and the ANC leadership cannot afford that to come out in court.

      January 30, 2013 at 2:36 pm
    16. The Creator #

      Tumi, all the young people I meet asking hardball questions about the economy are asking how they can get on the corporation gravy-train.

      Either you’re very lucky, or you aren’t listening attentively.

      I don’t see anyone like Malema anywhere on the horizon. You can argue that we were desperate to put our trust in Malema, but there wasn’t — and isn’t — anybody else.

      January 30, 2013 at 3:33 pm
    17. bernpm #

      @Orlando: “The percentage of people who’s going poor and poor is growing in a daily basis, specially the black people [which coincidently is the majority in the Republic of South Africa]”

      Facts?? % poor 10 years ago, this year???
      Facts?? nr poor blacks en nr of blacks, nr of poor whites en nr of whites both 10 years ago, this year

      do your sums

      January 30, 2013 at 5:54 pm
    18. ntozakhona #

      Malema is a product of the ANC albeit an embarrassing factory fault like Tennyson Makiwane, Terror Lekota and others before him. He had correctly predicted that it is cold outside the ANC and stupidlly drove himself to those freezing conditions.

      The message of a non-racial, non-sexist prosperous South Africa was not invented by Malema, it produced him. The message is a negation of inequality, poverty and unemployment.

      Indeed as we mark 100 years of the promulgation of the Land Act, there is a need to intensify programmes to redress the injustices of the past, to transform ownership patterns in South Africa so that we have a growing economy that does not continue to stagnate in the hands of the few.

      Malema is yesterday news and will be hankered for from time to time by disillusioned malcontents but there is nothing more to it. He is no Mandela nor Lembede who were loyal and disciplined members of the ANC, Malema had syled himself more as a Sobukwe and a Potlako Leballo.

      January 31, 2013 at 2:26 am
    19. ntozakhona #

      The ANC is being begged, scolded and persuaded to remember and celebrate the forgotten instant political celebrities that were Potlako Leballo and Robert Sobukwe. I watched on TV how the funeral of Joe Mkhwanazi was poorly attended and was surprised to see Johnson Mlambo is still alive.

      If young minds are wondering who are these people, they are former ANC Youth Leaguers of the 40s who were gigantic and very intelligent. They however chose to be bigger than the unity and discipline provided by the ANC. They labelled Luthuli and others sell outs in order tp potray themselves as sole saviours.

      Suffice to say that Malema like them will become a footnote in our rich history.

      January 31, 2013 at 4:59 am
    20. Honkie Tonk #

      There are many good people alive and well that could lead South Africa if given half a chance, unfortunately they have been sidelined by the current party elite. Why we are even discussing Julius Malema is beyond me, he enriched himself and gave the poor false hope, right now the Receiver of Revenue wants R 16 mil from him. Think that through.

      January 31, 2013 at 8:48 pm

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