01/05/2017 06:35 SAST | Updated 01/05/2017 06:52 SAST

Ferial Haffajee: Malikane, Arms And The Venezuela Option

While Finance Minister Malusi Gigaba’s advisor Chris Malikane’s views are spooking the elite, his views were very popular at a weekend meeting.

Carlos Garcia Rawlins / Reuters
People attempt to buy chickens at a Mega-Mercal, a subsidized state-run street market, in Caracas January 24, 2015. President Nicolas Maduro shook up complex currency controls on Wednesday and also prepared Venezuelans for a rise in the world's cheapest fuel prices in response to a recession worsened by plunging oil revenue. The socialist-run OPEC member's economy shrank 2.8 percent in 2014 while inflation topped 64 percent, the socialist leader announced in a speech to parliament, in what is almost certainly the worst performance in Latin America. REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins (VENEZUELA - Tags: BUSINESS POLITICS FOOD SOCIETY)


"The Anglo-Boer War was not a mistake. Arm the people. Take the land. (Stop the) lip service," said a man called Thabo who was dressed in the revolutionary style of Burkinabé leader Thomas Sankara.

His calls to arms received huge applause at a packed out hall where the Black First Land First (BFLF) movement hosted Finance Minister Malusi Gigaba's advisor Chris Malikane on Saturday.

It was the middle of a long weekend and I had not expected such a huge crowd. Organisers kept bringing in chairs which accommodated an audience of professionals, business owners, students, intellectuals and activists who had come to hear Malikane expound on his vision of radical economic transformation.

The evening started with the movement's leader Andile Mnxgitama calling for "one settler, one bullet," but it did not resonate much across the audience.

While it was a BFLF function, many in the audience identified themselves as members of the African National Congress (ANC) and they aligned staunchly with Malikane's message. But the man called Thabo was not impressed with Malikane. He had expected a call to arms. (He left before HuffPost SA could check his surname.)

Malikane responded thus: "It's not for me to decide to take up arms. It's up to united forces. Taking up arms is one thing. But building a country is another." Later, he again said armed struggle was one option to implement the radical change, but he said it was not his favoured option.

Malikane called for a summit of progressive forces to build support for his ideas of a programme of radical economic transformation.

He reiterated his calls for the nationalisation of the South African Reserve Bank, for full land expropriation into the ownership of the state as well as for the nationalisation of banks and mines.

Malikane says the programme is under attack from what he calls "the right and the left".

Where Malikane raised the idea of war he referred to the Marxist idea of a class war or revolution: "We must encourage the war of the black working class against white monopoly capital".

He said that the meltdown now underway in Venezuela was a possible scenario in South Africa, as was the scenario of a Zimbabwe-styled economic collapse, because the country would be isolated and punished if it broke with global economy rules and implemented radical economic transformation.

The populist late Venezuelan leader Hugo Chavez had in fact brought the country back from crisis with his radical socialism, said Malikane.

"Like Moses, I keep wondering, is there another way to get to the promised land?" he asked. Malikane praised the Indian option because the state owns the mines and the banking system.

Throughout the evening, Malikane's speech as well as militant questions and statements from the audience were greeted with murmurs of approval, calls of "yes" and sustained applause, especially when Malikane spoke about nationalisation.

The audience was not a majority of landless peasants nor an urban working poor. Attire was smart casual with lots of the latest Nikes and Adidas on display. The MC announced that a Porsche had left its lights on and the man sitting next to me said it was his as he jotted downstairs. Smart phones were raised everywhere to snap Malikane or record his words: the radical Wits University professor has quickly become a role model and local hero after his elevation to the top echelons at National Treasury. This reception is different to how he has been received by the elites of the finance sector and the business press.

An ANC member told Malikane: "Guys. We are in power. Implement. The EFF is telling the truth in Parliament. You are failing."