THE BLOG
06/03/2018 13:09 SAST | Updated 06/03/2018 13:09 SAST

Julius Malema: The Flame Of Economic Freedom

"I wish my homie many more years of good health, joy and peace and service to our country and the continent."

Gianluigi Guercia/ AFP/ Getty Images
EFF leader Julius Malema.

Saturday, March 3 was Julius Malema's birthday. Celebrations had been organised throughout the week, all leading to the EFF voter registration rally on Sunday, which in part honoured this young man who has brightened and coloured our politics in many remarkable and substantive ways.

Julius Malema was born in 1981, a period when the dawn in South Africa began to brighten. This is the period when the 1970s – with its dramatic June 16 youth uprising in 1976 – slipped into the 1980s. Tenacity, resolve, stubbornness, drive, firmness, fearlessness, leonine – all these qualities defined Malema from the very beginning.

At the age of nine, he showed who he is: a sledgehammer. He led a successful whirlwind campaign of removing apartheid National Party posters from police stations across the sprawling Seshego township in Polokwane.

SIPHIWE SIBEKO1 / Reuters
Julius Malema addresses his supporters during a march in Johannesburg. October 27, 2011.

That successful campaign made him famous and got him elected chairperson of the African National Congress Youth League (ANCYL) branch in Seshego at the tender age of 14. This was the time I knew him, at the age of 14 or thereabouts.

I was a student at the University of the North, now the University of Limpopo. David Makhura, current Gauteng premier, was a fellow student. In fact, he was the president of the Student Representative Council (SRC). Onkgopotse JJ Tabane, founder and anchor of the SABC 3 and Power FM current affairs show "Let's Talk Frankly", was deputising David Makhura as vice-president of the SRC.

This was a vibrant era of student politics. The campus was alive with students talking frankly on a range of issues – but predominantly politics. I see nothing new in Tabane or his show that's different to what he was saying as a student back then - he has always been a very talkative person.

The EFF is very relevant today.

We used to spend the nights – sometimes too-early mornings – at the student centre talking politics. This is the same famous student centre from which leaders like President Cyril Ramaphosa grew before us – also talking politics.

One night as we satchatting there, a fellow student related a story of a young boy called Julius Malema of Seshego, describing him as a rough diamond waiting to be polished – if only the boy could stand still, sooner rather than later, the world would take notice.

Seshego is not far from the University of the North, which is in the east of Polokwane at Turfloop, with Seshego in the west of the city. A lot has happened over the years since that time, and the little boy from Seshego, Julius Malema, has grown up to be a vibrant leader of note.

Getty Images
Malema with his grandmother, Sarah Malema, at Mponegele Primary School in Seshego on May 7, 2014.

I am glad that Malema never went to drugs or any of those socially motivated escapes that destroy black youths. We need to thank his grandmother for raising him well and for standing with him during his most trying time, when he was expelled from ANC. She counselled and embalmed the pain – and here we still have the robust, mature Julius Malema working to pull our nation back from extinction.

Today Malema leads the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF), a vibrant supernova youth movement that is revered in the country, the continent and the world as a force with the ability to break the hegemony of the ANC.

The EFF is very relevant today. The money gap between whites and blacks in South Africa has widened. In many parts of South Africa, millions of blacks are homeless and forced to construct shacks. A visit to these shacks reveals the low social status of black people in South Africa, perhaps much worse than it was during apartheid. The level of suffering is sky-high.

I see the EFF as an antithesis to the ANC thesis.

Many black people won preliminary skirmishes and a number of blacks have found jobs in the white-dominated private sector. But still, blacks have lost a great deal of ground since their presence is reduced to invisible levels with not much authority or say in the companies they work for. Blacks are woefully missing in the boardrooms.

People are missing payments on homes and losing them, they are skipping payments on cars and having them repossessed. The number of blacks drowning ever deeper in debt is astronomical – this is the everyday lived experience of the so-called black professionals.

President Ramaphosa's New Deal will plunge blacks into deeper misery, as it is not radical enough to go to the root cause of the issues affecting them.

I am talking frankly.

I see the EFF as an antithesis to the ANC thesis. Thesis (current dominant ideas) and antithesis (challenging ideas) are always at war. History is the documentation of how these ideas fight it out. When thesis and antithesis fight, the result is not the complete wiping out of one, but the synthesising of both. Ideas are synthesised, and that is how ideas grow.

I wish my homie many more years of good health, joy and peace and service to our country and the continent.

Siphiwe Sibeko / Reuters
Julius Malema gestures during a media briefing in Alexandra. August 17, 2016