I mused over why most liberation movements in Africa have turned into a flea-bitten dog after independence. I concluded that after the common enemy has left the political scene, the people lamentably fail to define a common biding goal.
People grope in the dark like Bantu Education teachers who were rudderless. My first woodwork class was nerve-racking; I had to draw a mortise gauge, which I had never seen, and label it. I surmise that the EFF leader, Julius Malema, went through the same traumatic experience as I did.
I failed woodwork because the subject was less practical and more imaginary than others. I had to stretch my imagination to the limit. Had Malema being asked to draw the image of a poor bucolic woman in his Seshego township, perhaps he could have given the world an African Mona Lisa?.
Malema is like Michael Jackson, you may dislike him but you can never ignore him. I stood open-mouthed when he received a tumultuous welcome in countries such as Nigeria, Kenya, Liberia and Ghana.
Malema has community of view with our fellow African countries; people invite you to speak only if you share the same goal. Malema uses the pan-Africanist brand as his fulcrum while managing a whirlwind schedule and maintaining his aura of control. The countries enjoy his gift of oratory as well as his views on African unity, as espoused by the founding fathers such as Dr Kwame Nkrumah.
I asked myself how many South African leaders who have registered their political parties for the 2024 general election have an African appeal like Malema. According to the Electoral Commission of South Africa, 356 political parties have registered for the 2024 election. Some of the well-heeled political parties have nothing to do with Africa.
When most of the manifestos deal with immigration issues, the EFF manifesto will be continental or Diasporic in scope. Malema has joined a league of young people across the continent who are asking the question asked in Lenin’s article: “What Is To Be Done?”
They are trying to find a kind of prescription for what to do under the yoke of neo-colonialism. They agree with the book of Revelation 21:1: “Now I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away. Also there was no more sea.” In my view, the sea represents the colonial boundaries that were imposed on Africa after the Berlin Conference of 1884 to 1885.
They demand a boundaryless United States of Africa. Nkrumah predicted this wind of change in his book, “Africa Must Unite”, in 1963: “This wind of change blowing through Africa, as I have said before, is no ordinary wind. It is raging hurricane against which the old order cannot stand.”
In 1957, Nkrumah visited Liberia at the invitation of president WVS Tubman; he saw what he called the evidence of poverty among the masses, even in Monrovia itself. Sixty-seven years later, Malema found that the status quo of poverty was deeply entrenched. In Ghana, he met the legion of unemployed youths. Therefore, youth unemployment is not only a South African problem but also a continental problem.
When addressing the Liberian people Nkrumah said: “Twenty years ago, a man came to the country called Aggrey. He said: ‘You look back. Don’t mind what is happening, or don’t mind what has happened. A new day is coming when the youth of Africa is going to wake up, and that reawakening is going to be a challenge to civilisation.’”
The hour is now at hand. How many political leaders on the continent discern that? When my parents used to take me to a ZCC devotional service, we use to sing “Wa le bona lesedi la Jeso na?” (“Do you see the light of the Great Master, Jesus Christ?”) Malema has taken the solitary road of African unity. Perhaps he has seen the signal?
Malema is gathering his honey carefully and he thought it prudent never to kick over the beehive through his craft of xenophilia (the love for other nations). This brings me to Benjamin Franklin measurement of servant leadership: “Who is wise? He that learns from everyone. Who is powerful? He that governs his passion. Who is rich? He that is content. Who is that? Nobody.”
The delegates who attended the Berlin Conference were not wise, because they wanted to impose the values on Africans. They were never powerful, because they never governed their passions. They were never rich, because they perceived contentment as a bottomless pit thus plundered African resources at the cost of humanity and sustainable development. If the continent is to strive and progress, we need men and women who would be authentically wise, powerful and rich.
They must also have one yardstick by which they test every major continental problem – and that yardstick should be: It is good for Africa?
I foresee a situation when the progressive youth of Europe will launch a rebellion against their forebears and distance themselves from the resolutions of the Berlin Conference and level the playing field of trade and not welfare. As a continent, we cannot subsist on European welfare; we want to preserve and control our mineral resources and create employment for our youth.
If you are judging Malema on his woodwork marks the way Winston Churchill was judged by his teachers, you will be missing an opportunity of experiencing the public official in the making. Nkrumah said: “World peace is not possible without the complete liquidation of colonialism and the total liberation of peoples everywhere. The indivisibility of peace is staked upon the indivisibility of freedom.”
Author and life coach Mathebula has a PhD in construction management.