The BR Leadership Platform recently had a leadership conversation with former ANC Youth League president Julius Malema. What follows is the second part of a Q&A from the interview by Adriaan Groenewald, where Malema shares his thoughts.
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BRLP: What’s your vision for the future of South Africa?
Malema: We need an equal society, a proper well-resourced society. We need to live equally in this country, peacefully and happy. Our society into the future can only be an equal society through economic freedom. There must be decisiveness, we are not calling for anarchy, we are not calling for the collapse of the economy.
Those who are opposed to the proposals we have put forward, let them put alternatives forward. Let’s share the wealth of the country. Let us de-racialise the economy.
We have no problem with the white man, but the white man must be prepared to share. Let those who have voluntarily begin to give to others – not use our democratic laws to want to perpetuate the apartheid inequalities. Wait for the day when people are going to participate in an uprising, you must tell us where’s the constitution, because then you can’t stop them, not the judiciary, not even the army, not NATO – it will never stop the masses. So before we experience an uprising let there be a genuine debate on the table on how do you redistribute.
BRLP: What about teaching a man or a woman to fish rather than giving them the fish? We can’t just give give give. That’s the concern I have – the mentality of just receiving – it doesn’t build character, but there is a case for somehow redistributing.
Malema: How am I going to fish with an empty stomach? There is nothing wrong with you saying to me – here’s fish – but these fish, you can even get more by doing one, two, three. We must build schools, we must be able to identify kids in those areas who have potential, take them to the best schools and in that way we are also giving them the rod to go and fish.
But those people do not have any hope. They don’t see any possibility of a bright future unless something drastic happens. An example is a township that has just turned 100 years – those rich families in Stellenbosch, they can come here and make a contribution and say we want to build the best city ever, as their contribution to a democratic South Africa with a commitment to sharing.
BRLP: Would that work in the bigger picture of trying to teach skills, of making sure people don’t have that entitlement mentality?
Malema: We don’t want to create a welfare state, that has never been our intention. Hence we said to Pres Jacob Zuma when he became president, part of your legacy will be to produce well-qualified young people, so take 10 000 students from the country every year, to go and learn in the best countries while we are still transforming our education system here.
We can’t wait for this system to be transformed; we don’t have that luxury, let’s take others out of the country to be equipped with the necessary skills, 10 000, and then bring them back. By the time you leave your office in five years you would have graduated not less than 50 000 young people who are now in the service of our country. Nobody cares to listen. The Rupert’s can do this without Zuma.
BRLP: I can march a lot of top chief executives in here and they will tell you about the millions that their organisations spend to uplift schools, education and much more – they’ll state a very good case of what they are doing.
Malema: No, you will find them having put a fence around a school. They’ve not built a school. I will tell them go and show me that school. At least now Patrice Motsepe and his company are trying to build a proper road in an area, and Anglo in Thabazimbi try to build houses for people there. I was very happy with that. But they need to do more.
BRLP: People are asking how the nationalisation of the banks and mines will put money into the pockets of the poor.
Malema: Mines are accounting for trillions of rands here into the country. But if you look at their contribution through tax, it’s not what you would expect coming out of those trillions. So we need a state that is involved in mining through taking over 60 percent of the shares in mines, but not only in shares, it must be involved in the operations of the mines. And when those dividends are declared our coffers will get more money.
That 40 percent that remains in the hands of the private sector must still be taxed and royalties must be paid, so effectively the majority of the money will remain here with the investor not leaving with more than 20 percent after tax. That’s what we are talking about. We want our government to be involved in mining.
And then the farms that have not been mined yet, if a private company comes, wants to do exploration in those areas, the state is not involved – we give you a licence to go check – you bring a report. If it is profitable we are going with you 60 percent. You go 40 percent. Why should we pay for that? You bring the mining machines, we will bring the mineral – we bring the land, we bring the minerals. Those things belong to us. We are meeting each other half way. It’s not like we are coming empty-handed. We are bringing minerals, you bring the machines. We mine together.
BRLP: People wouldn’t trust that the government would distribute those dividends, those taxes fairly, wisely and without corruption. That may not always be a fair comment but that perception exists.
Malema: But Adriaan, you’re paying tax now. You don’t stop paying it now because you believe the government won’t use your money properly.
BRLP: We can complain, but we can’t really do anything about it.
Malema: Yes, that’s how a democratic government is – there will be those elements. Even today there is corruption – how people get licences, get bribes, all kinds of things, there’s no state involved in that – what happens there, you’d be shocked.
That’s why we are saying it must not be given to individuals. As opposed to what Zimbabweans are talking about in nationalisation where you must appoint a Zimbabwean indigenous person and you must give him 51 percent – a business person.
The state has got a proper mandate from its people to manage the assets of its people. But it has got too little resource, it needs additional resources. Where are the extra resources? They are in the banks, they are in the monopoly industries and they are in the mining sector. That’s where extra resources must come from.
BRLP: There’s no doubt that we mustn’t just follow a free market or capitalist model, but then, are you pushing for something in the middle, a blend between socialistic and free market, or are you pushing for a socialistic state?
Malema: I’m not pushing for a socialistic state, I’m pushing for our people to get bread on the table and if you call that socialistic then it’s fine with me – I have no problem with what you call it. But anything that will result in our people being able to buy school uniforms for their children is what I want.
I am not here calling for a socialist agenda – that’s why I am not calling for wholesale nationalisation to the exclusion of the private sector. The private sector still plays a major role in the whole thing, but with the state being a leading partner.
BRLP: What place in society do you see for minority voices – whites, coloured etc? I am a white Afrikaans speaking male who wants to be part of the solution. So when I hear you stand up and say we must take back the land and our money, I get the strong feeling I am excluded. And that creates a lot of alienation. Many South Africans feel excluded, they feel that race relations are regressing.
Malema: No no no no no… the white minorities, they’re just scared of nothing. If we wanted to do anything to them we would have done it in 1994. We had all the reasons, but look, we are not anti-whites, but we can’t ignore what happened historically and they need to come to terms with that. The sooner they appreciate that they have caused us so much pain, the better.
They need to know that. They must never behave like nothing happened. That’s the problem, they want to behave like nothing happened, and they want to say to people, put everything behind – we can’t, we can’t. Never ever try to push us to put everything behind because you’re going to force us to pretend to you and once we are pretentious the anger in us is going to boil. And then it will explode.
BRLP: So how do we confront and really clear up the race issues?
Malema: They must open up, this is their country, they too should feel comfortable and never feel attacked when we speak about redressing the imbalances of the past. They must open up and one of the ways of opening up is to accept that apartheid has caused us this trouble we find ourselves in now.
Then they need to ask themselves a question – how do I contribute? I’ve got land here, some of which I’m no longer using; I’ve just dumped my workers there to look after it. Why can’t I, as part of my contribution give the state some of it, as my contribution towards land redistribution?
And the state will then decide how to utilise that land. If it’s agricultural land it will have to go and look for competent people who have got what it takes to utilise the land because we must also be worried about the food security. We are not just going to take land, tomorrow there’s no production.
The mistake we did with the state buying of land and giving people without mentorship – we don’t need that. We need to get land, give it to people, but employ somebody, even if it’s the Afrikaner, employ him to supervise the production there. He must be on the payroll of the state, he must know that he’s paid to do that.
But the point is, if you have nothing, as an ordinary white person… why should you be worried, you have nothing, you have not stolen from anybody, you just have your house, you don’t have anybody’s land, you don’t have all the monies, we are not talking about you. We are speaking to the Ruperts, the Oppenheimers; we are speaking to all those who are owning the means of production.
White working class belongs to our struggle. They must come and join us to fight for equal distribution of wealth in this country, and when we say equal distribution of wealth we don’t refer only to blacks – we refer to the white working class who has got nothing.
BRLP: What I hear you say now can potentially convince the ordinary guy on the street to enrol in your cause if he heard it that way. But you don’t say it that way?
Malema: I’ve always said it; I’ve said no white person is going to be driven to the river here. Not by us. That would be to the disappointment of Nelson Mandela. We would be undoing his work.
But we need to be honest about what we want. And the media does not help. Those who own the media are those who own the means of production. You say you want to take from them, they use everything else they have to prevent you from taking from them; they then use the media to discredit our achievement, the struggle. But we are not worried about that – the truth will come out.Everybody needs to appreciate that actually I belong here.
BRLP: So you expect the farmer to realise or make some sort of breakthrough in his own mind and change his attitude and then perhaps give some of what he has. It’s a big ask. And you are challenging a Laurie Dippenaar, a Paul Harris, the individuals from Stellenbosch, to stand up and give a ‘billion’ as a token to show we still need to redress – it’s asking a lot, perhaps.
Malema: It’s not asking a lot. Out of billions you’re giving R1 billion; it’s not asking a lot. It’s also clearing your own conscience – you’re an individual who has billions, you can do a lot with it. And you don’t have to involve the state, if you don’t trust them, then do it yourself. Call a press conference, announce that as part of a contribution this is what I am going to do and I’m calling upon fellow white South Africans to make this contribution.
We will celebrate that and you are actually going to break these hostilities – one of us is actually appreciating that there is a contribution to be made. But why are they not doing that – because the majority are still holding on to the past – thinking they are superior, must remain superior and what makes me superior? It’s the big land, big money and they must all come work for me. It can’t be.
Let’s all make a contribution. We are now going for 20 years with all those expectations we had under Pres Mandela where we didn’t achieve them, we are still patiently waiting that one day when things will be fine.
But for sure you know what happened in Africa 20 years after democratic breakthroughs – people gave up and said, no, this is too much now, enough is enough, and they started chasing those who are seen to be perpetuating oppression.
BRLP: What most people out there attack or query is your own wealth, as someone that fights for the poor and downtrodden, yet you have so much, and the suspicion is that you could only have acquired it illegally? What is your response to such arguments and views?
Malema: Joe Slovo was not a black person but he fought against black people’s oppression by white domination. I’m not rich but creditworthy because of my previous occupations. I never stole anything from anybody and neither was I once found guilty of illegal activities by a credible court of law. I’m a child of a domestic worker and I grew up in a poverty stricken family. I don’t read about poverty, I’ve lived a poverty life.
BRLP: You seem fearless – I think that’s one of the reasons why people are fascinated with you.
Malema: I’m not compromised – other leaders are compromised. They’ve got skeletons in their own wardrobes. I don’t owe anybody anything. They try and scare me and put investigations against me, put all manner of pressures against me.
I’ve never in my own conscious life took a decision to engage in a criminal activity and if you say you are investigating me about this or that let me get a day where I’ll answer those allegations and deal with them. I’m not going to be threatened. If I have done wrong, I should take responsibility for what I’ve done wrong. But I’m not going to suppress my views and my ideas
*Adriaan is lead contributor to the BRLeadership Platform. He is also the managing director and co-founder of Leadership Platform (www.leadershipplatform.com) Send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org. Alternatively, contact BREditor Ellis Mnyandu at Ellis.Mnyandu@inl.co.za.