Listening to Julius Malema speak, I am always surprised that he is not as stupid, offensive and insensitive as the media seems to portray. Yes, he has perfected the ability of offering journalists bite size quotes that are sensational enough to earn a front page newspaper spot, keep the editors happy and him in the news . But I have noticed there are elements of truth in his speeches that warrant debate and discussion before everybody jumps on the “what shocking thing did Malema say this time?” band wagon.
I attended the South African Union of Jewish Students (SAUJS)’ Shabbat dinner on Friday night the 8th April at which Malema addressed the UCT SAUJS members. He had the audience captivated, caused much laughter and to the surprise of many- he had more than a handful of valid points. Don’t get me wrong, logic at times was missing in action, certain statements were threatening and one wants more from a leader than hilarious speeches.
But here were his good points
Mine workers continue to face dangerous working conditions despite the wealth of mining companies. This is one reason why his nationalisation debate falls on such open ears. Communism sounds good to the working class and unemployed. In the media, labour debates focus on the strictness of labour laws but working conditions for many continue to remain questionable and their voices are not heard.
During the dramatic rescue of Chiliean miners, who had been underground for two months, many overseas media outlets interviewed miners from other countries about similar experiences. South African media covered the event but I didn’t see a single South African miner interviewed about what work underground was like.
128 miners died in 2010 in South Africa – it’s not a statistic that gets as much attention as rhino deaths for example.
White youth and other minorities don’t get involved in South African events such as Human Rights Day and Youth Day celebrations- but yes, he admitted the events perhaps do not accommodate their tastes.
Malema said that as Whites and Indians are not involved or interested in celebrating national days it leaves organisers less able to know what suitable bands or appropriate entertainment to organise to suit minorities’ tastes.
He raised the valid point of white apathy. White apathy is real and there is more to it than the wrong music on offer at a Human Rights Day celebration. But Malema raised the issue, made the challenge and asked us to participate. Why are we as whites so disenfranchised? Do we choose to be marginalised and could it be different?
“We don’t want to drive you whites to the sea. The ANC leaders have always spoken against violence.”
That’s hardly a quote that would make the front page.
South Africans sell land to foreigners with ease. It’s not necessarily a bad thing, as Malema made out. Globalisation is real. But it’s an issue worth debating.
The labour laws – as strict as they are in this country- have stopped Chinese investors bringing in their own labour for projects as has happened in other African countries.
And that may not be bad thing
The poor will rise up eventually if we don’t deal with poverty in this country. Poverty is an issue but Malema was open about his Sandton lifestyle…
And then there were the concerning points we have heard before…
We – the ANCYL/government- want 60% ownership of the mines.
We won’t pay for them.
We want land back as it was stolen from us 100 years ago – we won’t pay for that, nor will we cut off hands like they did in Zimbabwe. We will just ask for it or legislate.
Sounds to me that he is promising the same thing as happened in Zimbabwe without the blood.
He didn’t define who the ‘we; was or answer the audience question as to how land and mineral wealth would be redistributed.
His threatening statements didn’t sound alarming when hidden underneath the layers of Malema charm and passion. But they stood out from the other points for the sheer damage they would do to the South African economy were such things to pass.
But perhaps it would be fair, accurate and honest of the media to reflect his other ideas along with the dangerous-sounding statements. A well-rounded reflection of his speeches would at least offer readers insight into why he has such populist appeal.
Addition: I certainly didn’t hear Malema ask SAUJS to speak out against Israel as reported by Eyewitness News- not to say he didn’t say that but I didn’t hear it. He said repeatedly that they must speak with Israel and recognise a Palestinian state. He also said he doesn’t care what they media says about him cause noone votes for editors. He has the people’s vote regardless.
But one can understand the ANCYL’s frustration with the media cause it seems Malema is frequently misquoted or his speeches represented in a very partial manner.