Mandela to Malema
Where is South Africa headed?
Johannesburg – Since the hospitalisation of anti-apartheid hero Nelson Mandela on June 7, South Africa has been holding its breath and bracing for the inevitable.
The increasingly frail Madiba, as he is also fondly known, has been admitted into hospital four times since December 2012.
And for the first time the South African Presidency, which has fashioned itself spokesperson for Madiba, publicly admitted he was “serious but stable”.
Prayers for Madiba have been pouring in from all corners of the world and South Africa has had to grapple with the prospect of losing Tata (Father) Mandela.
Incidentally, also exposed has been the apparent vacuity of leadership in South Africa; with the question that keeps popping up being who can fit into Madiba’s shoes.
“We no longer have an icon on his level, not only here is South Africa but in the world,” says Professor Somadoda Fikeni of the South African Heritage Resources Agency.
“People see him as the antidote to the current social ills we are faced with. That is why people are still holding on to him,” he adds.
Prof Clive Napier, president of the South African Association of Political Studies and lecturer at the University of South Africa, believes Mandela has attributes that his successor have all failed to project.
“Mandela had the personality that Thabo Mbeki did not have, and the intellect that Zuma does not,” Prof Napier told The Southern Times.
It owes perhaps to the time – 27 years – that Mandela spent in prison during which he had time to reflect on politics and South Africa’s future, says Prof Napier.
Mandela retired from public life in 2004 and has not even made an appearance for his millions of adoring fans for a number of years.
But that is not important. He seems to have some supernatural spell that he has cast on South Africa and the world because the man simply cannot – and has not – done any wrong for those that love him.
“There is no doubt that the Mandela magic has been very important in bringing together an otherwise divided society and there may be a moment of real concern were he to pass on,” says the University of Johannesburg’s Prof Lawrence Hamilton.
There is no denying the existence of this “Madiba Magic”.
In a similar anxious moment for South Africa last April when Madiba was hospitalized, the BBC highlighted the strength of Madiba’s mere presence.
“The theory goes that – even from his hospital bed – Mr Mandela exerts some sort of restraint on a turbulent nation, almost a decade after he retired from public life … Imagine Britain in the mid 1960s still anxious about the broader implications of Winston Churchill’s failing health.”
There is a reason why people refuse to let go of Mandela.
“There are not many heroes left these days,” noted the BBC, “so people cling to Mandela like a precious relic.”
A different hero is likely to take over from Mandela, and many people are very uneasy about his potential to rise to the apex of South Africa’s politics.
Says Professor Napier: “What we need is a strong and decisive leadership – which I doubt we will get from (President Jacob) Zuma.
“The leader must confront the epochal challenges such as corruption, forge reconciliation and sort out differences among South Africans – whatever they might be – and forge economic development and eliminate inefficiencies.
“He must see the reduction of inequality – the gap between the haves and the have-nots – and creating employment through creating the right environment, and especially promoting the private sector.”
South Africa is at a crossroads where it needs a different kind of hero to the type that Mandela is and was. It needs someone, analysts say, who can bridge the economic divide between rich and poor, between white and black.
Mandela has faced criticism, the most recent prominent example being the observation by Zimbabwe’s President Robert Mugabe that Madiba was “too soft” and “too good” to non-black communities to the apparent disadvantage of the latter.
And some, like the Azanian People’s Organisation, have expressed their displeasure that Madiba has been receiving top medical attention while “the majority of poor people are dying because they have no access to the expensive medication that Mandel is receiving”.
Could this be time for a hero that is grounded in the poor? And is firebrand Julius Malema the reply to Mandela, the man who can take South Africa’s uhuru agenda to the next stage?
Malema, a vociferous, oft-polarising figure who got into trouble for his race-tinted rhetoric, and who is the very antithesis of the saintly Mandela, has launched a political platform that will seek “economic freedom”.
He says South Africa needs “a party that demands justice in this country, that will say we need the land that was taken from our people and we are not going to pay for it,” and one that “will say those who were victims of apartheid stand to benefit unashamedly and those who perpetuated apartheid must show remorse and behave in a manner that says they regret their conduct.”
Malema has gained traction and opposition in almost equal measure.
Will he be the next best thing?
This is a question that has had many people worried as he threatens to upset a status quo that has thrived on South Africa’s claim to being THE “Rainbow Nation”.
The millions of poor South Africans who find themselves living lives not much different from the apartheid years, though, are eager to see how Malema can influence the direction the country is taking and hopefully be key to a new socio-economic order.
Others still want him to return to the ANC and steer through his vision for a more equal society from within the ranks of Africa’s oldest liberation movement.
One such person is Thami ka Plaatjie, who is one of the advisors to Public Administration and Services Minister and ANC stalwart, Lindiwe Sisulu.
Writing in his personal capacity for the Sunday Independent, he says Malema must submit to the discipline of the ANC and fight his battles from within. (See box alongside this article for Malema’s response)
“Restrain your anger against your movement, return to its ranks, and work among the people you so dearly love, fight their struggles and bide your time. The move of establishing a new political party is born out of anger and frustration and will, in time, seal your doom.
“In 1951 a prominent South African, angry against the ANC, set out to establish his own political party. His name was Selope Thema, then the editor of the Bantu World, a seasoned member of the ANC. Fooled by the attention he commanded as editor of a black newspaper, he thought that such a platform would translate into votes…
“He called his organisation African Minded Block or Bafa begiya. It derived its name from the heroes of Mendi who on the eve of their death embarked on the dance of death. (Bafa begiya means they died dancing).
“Alas, Thema’s political death came without a dance as the pages of history referred to him in footnotes. Son of Africa, media attention is temporal and transient. Rooting yourself and steeling your resolve in the ranks of an experienced movement proffers abundant possibilities to make a difference in the lives of our people…
“Your views ring true and reverberate throughout a troubled generation, but to fight against the people’s movement hoping to win will be as impossible as presiding over your own cremation.”
‘Economic freedom in our lifetime’
The following are excerpts of JULIUS MALEMA’S response to Thami ka Plaatjie. The full response can be found at www.politicsweb.co.za
I might be wrong, but I interpret your letter to be basically saying that I should be patient in the Zuma African National Congress (ZANC), and fight struggles for economic freedom within the confines of such, because those who fought from different platforms before never succeeded.
You might be genuine in your advice because you recently founded and registered a political organisation, the Pan-Africanist Movement (PAM), which was short-lived, either due to lack of determination or poverty of the ideals it upheld.
We will never know, because on what appeared to be career decisions and the need for immediate class upward mobility, you joined the Zuma African National Congress (ZANC), which does not represent anything the ANC of Oliver Tambo, Walter Sisulu, Nelson Mandela represented. The ZANC is an association of careerists and neo-liberal bureaucrats whose sole mission and role is protecting the interests of White monopoly capital, and that is the band you have joined.
One thing you seemingly do not understand is that to me and my fellow Economic Freedom Fighters, politics is not a career or profession wherein one is obsessed with upward mobility, even at the expense of principle.
If I was chasing positions, I would have readily accepted when (a) substantial majority of ANC members requested that I go to Parliament. I would have not taken up a struggle for economic freedom, which by its very nature was career-limiting.
I (have) stood firm on what I believe is a genuine struggle for economic freedom in our lifetime, which must be extended to Botswana, Namibia, Malawi, Angola, Mozambique, Angola, Lesotho, Swaziland, the rest of the African continent and intensified in Zimbabwe. If my obsession was positions and career, I would have apologised and chose to abandon the struggle for economic freedom in our lifetime.
We are inspired by the fighting spirit of Vladimir Lenin, Fidel Castro, Che Guevara, Patrice Lumumba, Hugo Chavez, Robert Mugabe, (the) June 16, 1796 generation, and many other freedom fighters who understood that revolution and struggle for emancipation is far much bigger than organisational confines.
When Lenin realised that the struggle for a socialist revolution was being confined and constrained in wrong, counter-revolutionary, and effectively reactionary parameters of the Marxist Russian Social Democratic Labour Party, he mobilised to pursue the revolution from an independent platform, the Bolsheviks.
The Bolsheviks did not only lead one of the most successful revolutions in the world, they contributed massively to the declination of many countries and stood firm in opposition to imperialist domination and control of the world.
The subjective weaknesses on the leadership of the Bolsheviks (such as Stalin) undermined the revolution from being carried to its logical conclusion. Politically and ideologically, we are the Bolsheviks (majority) in society and that will be realised in action that is not inspired by vote-buying and manipulation.
Che Guevara and Fidel Castro led determined combatants in Cuba to defeat the Batista regime and played a decisive role in the liberation of many colonised countries in the world, including in Africa and particularly South Africa. When they begun the struggle, they were called adventurist and reckless, and impatient as some are (saying) now, but they fought until the end and their mark in history will never be deleted.
Dissatisfied with the military and fighting tactics of the Zimbabwe African People's Union (ZAPU), Ndabaningi Sithole, Herbert Chitepo, and many revolutionary others founded the Zimbabwean African National Union (ZANU), which fought for liberation of Zimbabwe.
The ideological dynamism of ZANU made it appreciate that it had to work with ZAPU (to form ZANU-PF) to continue the struggle for total emancipation. ZANU-PF under the leadership of President Robert Mugabe became a dynamic movement which challenged imperialism and decidedly reclaiming Zimbabwe's economic resources amidst global neo-liberal, racist, and Afrophobic condemnation of blacks reclaiming their land.
The June 16, 1976 generation is our greatest inspiration, who without an military infrastructure to confront the apartheid regime, went ahead, even without the approval of the ANC to confront the regime.
The regime was shaken by the June 16 events of the youth who were fearless and did not have anything to lose, but their chains. We are here today, with no financial resources to fight electoral politics, but we will do everything we have in our power to get the message across that the time for economic freedom in here, and the youth are better placed to take this struggle forward.
Political activity in the world is a result of conscious human action, not a supernatural phenomenon.
The ANC is not Alfa and Omega of South Africans revolutionary politics. Many major political events have transpired in South Africa without the involvement of the ANC, and to think that it is only the ZANC that will carry the struggle forward is foolishness.
We want to remind you that the ZANC is on a constant downward spiral ideologically, politically, and morally. The ZANC is not committed to the Freedom Charter anymore. The ZANC is demoting South Africa into a kleptocracy, who uses selective prosecutions and secrecy to hide their looting of resources that should better the lives of our people.
South Africa has been re-colonised by a family that stays in Saxonwold in Johannesburg, the Guptas because they control the ZANC. These are facts, which with practical and material evidence will become very clear on the election platform when we will be asking the people whether they want to continue under the colony of the Guptas or want to carry forward the Freedom Charter towards economic freedom.
Already the Zuma National Task Team (ZNTT) is saying the ANC Youth League does not have policy on Nationalisation of Mines and Land expropriation without compensation because that is what Zuma wants. All radical, Freedom Charter hoisters will be eliminated from the ranks of the ANC.
(But) we will live to realise economic freedom in our lifetime.
The reality which must begin to (be) appreciated is that this Movement for Economic Freedom in Our Lifetime will realise economic freedom in our lifetime. We will in our lifetime, turn the mass support we command into formalised political power, capture the state and radically change ownership of the economy, particularly land and mineral resources to benefit all South Africans.
We will win this war.