Zama Ndlovu
Zama Ndlovu

Malema may be gone, but issues still remain

Late on Saturday morning, in true African time, a ramrod Cyril Ramaphosa delivered a flinty speech that was not only a preamble to the African National Congress’s verdict on youth league leader Julius Malema, but a warning sign to the rest of the party: ill-discipline will not be tolerated. By upholding the guilty verdict, the national disciplinary committee of appeals stripped Malema of his power and with no real support outside of the ANC Youth League structures, and with the tax collector, public protector, and Special Investigating Unit closing in on him, it would take a miracle of biblical proportions to resurrect this cadre’s political career from the tomb it’s been chucked in.

But was the ANC’s decision disciplining or silencing the ANC Youth League?

Before Julius Malema entered the political scene, there was very little public discourse on the acute socio-economic issues faced by a growing number of young South Africans today. After 18 years of political freedom, more than half of South Africans under the age of 25 remain unemployed – among the highest jobless rates in the world. Many live idly with few prospects of ever being employed. The promise of education as the gateway to a better life remains questionable on a good day, as too few are able to meet the requirements necessary to enter into higher education institutions. For those who do qualify for university admission, the competition for a place in a university has intensified, as the country simply does not have enough institutions of higher learning. The bulk of South Africa’s youth has been relegated to front row seats to watch a small portion of the country live Mandela’s dream.

Malema’s political career may have been short-lived, but the issues that gave rise to his popularity continue to plague the country. Despite Malema not being the preferred candidate for the role of vanguard for the poor, there is concern that the ANC used its disciplinary processes to shut down the debate on nationalisation of mines in South Africa, rather than enforcing discipline within its ranks.

The ANC was forced to investigate nationalisation as a possible alternative policy largely because of the pressure exerted by the league. Since 1994, the ANC has generally leaned toward mainstream growth development models supplemented by welfare and job creation initiatives as the main strategy to improve socio-economic conditions. Adam Smith’s promise of a trickling down of wealth has, however, failed in South Africa just as we’ve seen it fail in more “developed” economies. Like their global counterparts, ordinary South Africans are no longer buying into capitalists’ solution and are ready to hear alternatives.

Albeit badly handled, the nationalisation debate was the first time that a larger portion of the country took part in a national discussion on the economic path that South Africa is on. Serious questions were raised on the efficacy of current policies, and even though it was from structures within the ANC, the debate was youth-driven. It was not a sexy or nation-building topic, and it was bound to make those in the wealthier classes uncomfortable, but it was a natural next step for a country whose citizens had been cordial to each other for too long, afraid to ask the difficult questions about the inequitable status quo.

Malema’s call for nationalisation of mines and banks and expropriation of land, although not on the official charge sheet, until this morning, was seen by many to be the real reason why the ANC acted firmly and decisively against the ANC Youth League leadership. Capitalists who had popped champagne at the young leader’s downfall were forced to spit their Moet back in the bottle when the ANC’s secretary general Gwede Mantashe announced at a press conference in Luthuli House on Monday, that nationalisation was “not a Malema issue, but an ANC issue”. The ANC may have been seeking to reassure its youth members in particular that the decisive actions taken against the ANCYL president were not meant to close the discussion on alternative economic policies for development. However, the nationalisation debate is back in the corridors of Luthuli House and no longer encouraged for robust public debate.

If this was a move by the ANC to shut down dissenting opinion on economic policy, it is not a wise one, because South Africa’s youth will not go hungry indefinitely. Political and economic decisions cannot continue to be made far from the prying eyes of those who are expected to religiously vote for the ANC while accepting all its decisions without question.

More broadly, South Africans must accept that the honeymoon phase of the rainbow nation’s marriage is over. The Malema-induced fear that engulfed the wealthier classes is also a reflection of a nation that does not trust the strength of the democratic institutions in the country. Celebrating Malema’s demise simply because he made certain classes uncomfortable is not a win for our young democracy. If South Africa is to move toward a meaningful democratic and economic solution for all its citizens, there must be better engagement on difficult discussions required to move the country forward between people from different social and economic backgrounds.

Once the dust clears and wounds heal, the ANCYL will have to pick a new leader to carry its cause to the Mangaung conference. There’s already growing speculation that Ronald Lamola may be the next leader, a man described by a Mail & Guardian source as “more aggressive than Julius [Malema] and … without the abrasiveness”. It’s still early to tell whether a new boogie man is being created or whether, if elected, the lawyer will better articulate the youth message without the distractions from questionable lifestyle choices. What is clear is that Malema’s political career may be buried, but the issues remain unaddressed.

As South Africans, we assume that our society is stable, developed, and incapable of the kinds of outbreaks that occurred in North Africa early last year. But the recurring xenophobic attacks and the violence of service delivery protests should be a signal that there is still much for this country to resolve. If there is indeed truth to the saying that “democracy lives in the ANC”, it would not be in South Africa’s best interest for the ANC to muffle its youth.

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    • Paul Whelan

      Julius Malema is always said to have ‘raised issues’ that no one else had thought of or argued about. Let us suppose that to be true. The only way to settle what to do about those issues now is for the ANC to split and for the voters then to decide which of the two sides (and leaders) they want to be the next government.

      Who really thinks Mr Malema has it in him to form a new party like that? And if he does not, why does he not?

    • Chris Roux

      What is interesting is that whilst there is debate around capitalism versus other forms of macro economic system, capitalism has grown the working to middle class in South Africa from around 3 million in 1994 to just over 13million according to the last annual SARS report. They define this group as people who declared an annual income of greater than R200,000.

      This means the gini coefficient and all other indicators used to highlight the gap between the rich and poor is no longer a race issue but a measure class divide.

      Every time some radical like Malema who has actually no real concern for the poor, attacks the rich, he will of course knowingly or unknowingly be referring to a largely black middle class majority, including himself.

      Capitalism has worked and will continue to work for the greater majority of employed, more so than any other form of social or economic order and millions of new black middle class are living that.

      The real problem is not economics or racialism; it is endemic corruption throughout the public service from parliament and its ministries to officials and administrators at the coalface.

      They should seriously review their radical economic theories because under alternative systems that have failed everywhere else, the cake from which national wealth is presently being stolen will only shrink. The size of the national economy in Zimbabwe reduced to about 10% of its original value after Mugabe’s nationalization and land grab was…

    • Paul Whelan

      @ Chris Roux – As you suggest, a strong middle class is the guardian of stability because it has ownership in society. SA’s problem is not only that the ‘rich’ are white and the ‘poor’ black but that people like Julius Malema will go on simplifying it in those terms.

      One-party rule is always at risk from populists and a drift to autocracy. A black led middle class opposition is essential if SA democracy is to mature.

    • Sterling Ferguson

      @Lincoln, there is no system in the world that has given the world the goods and services like the capitalists system. There is nothing wrong from my point of view if people do things for a profit. However, there must be regulations for these businesses to operate under. These businesses should have competition and not a one company country. In SA if Eskoms was private and force to compete with other energy suppliers, SA would be better off.

    • Ebrahim Ameer

      This article should be on the front page of every SA newspaper. It is most thought provoking . Congratulations to the author.

    • http://none Lyndall Beddy

      Nationalisation is not only an idea of the left, but has equally been an idea of the right – Franco’s Fascist Spain was keen on nationaisation for example.

      It is AUTOCRATIC one party states that want state control of industry and farming. Unfortunately politicians and bureaucrats are hopeless at both.

      And I do wish the word “capitalism” would be properly defined! It is NOT supposed to mean speculation, which is what it has become.

    • Kerry

      thanks for a thought provoking article. )i’m so tired of thought leader articles that are a waste of time to read.) it would be great to see the youth setting an economic agenda some way to the left of the ANC. but please let’s have clean leadership.

    • Tofolux

      @Chris Roux, if capitalism has worked then why are we have economic meltdowns is America, Italy,Spain etc. These are supposedly strong economies. Also if capitalism has worked, why are we seeing the type of bailouts we are seeing today? If capitalism worked, why does America have poor people.
      You extremely dismissive of the plight of the unemployed and poor. Capitalism if failing. I wonder if you have realised that. Look at the emerging economies, Chris are they capitalist only?
      China, is a communist country and it is one the most successful economies in the world today. Do you know that all the western countries are borowing money from China, for their bail-outs? Do you know that it will be China together with the new markets, ie India, Brazil, Venezuela who will dominate economies in the future, And guess what…these are NOT radical economic theories. What was a radical economic theory was capitalism and look at what a grand failure its turning out to be. What you fail to understand and maybe its because you are employed, middle-class and priviledged, is the fact that capitalists does creates abnormal classes issues. It creates greed and individualism. And finally, surprise, surprise, it creates corruption.

    • Sterling Ferguson

      @Beddy, i must differ with you about capatilism is not suppose to speculate. Capatilsm is about people investing in other people ideas hoping to make a profit. Take for an example, I have a movies script and come to you to invest in making a movie with this script, if you put up the money to make this movie, you are speculating. Now here is the problem the people on Wall St are not using their money to gamble with but, other people money such as pension funds and 401Ks. Many of them are moving funds offshore and the money just vanish and the investors are losing billions.

    • fraud

      @Lyndall Beddy…I hear you perfectly, about how nationalization has failed in many countries (even though it has worked very well right next door – Botswana, and Norway, China, and a few othes). You still haven’t answered my question: what are your alternatives? We obviously cannot continue with the current model and we need alternatives. Malema and co have tabled theirs. What are yours? (please simply answer the question, if you can)

    • http://none Lyndall Beddy


      Botswana never nationalised mines, because the country never sold its mineral rights to mine to anyone, so they did not have to nationalise them back.

      THEN when they did mine they did a public-private partnership, kept the rights, and MINORITY profits of the company given the rights to mine, Debswana.

      They did NOT try to appoint pals and politicians to mine!

    • http://none Lyndall Beddy


      Imagine how the Royal Bafoking family would like it if SA cancelled all mineral rights?

      No ONE tribe gets all and leaves the rest in squatter camps in Botswana! In fact I am told there are very few squatter camps there.

    • http://none Lyndall Beddy


      The joke is that the Bafokeng probably pushed the Bushmen/Hottentots (Khoisan) off the land into the Cape and Botswana only about a century before the whites arrived.

      So maybe the Bafokeng should share their profits with the Cape Coloureds?

    • Una


      They will never come up with anything except to criticise any call for justice and fairness in the cutting of the cake. I think very soon I am going to live the country of my birth with a very broken heart. I foresee problems ahead. May God help us

      There are millions of frustrated youth out there and they want to see meaningful change. The futile attempts of moving around the pawns aimlessly while the country is already on checkmate will take us no where. We are doomed – I never thought I would be a doomsayer. Something tragic is manifesting in the spiritual realm. I am really scared.

    • Sterling Ferguson

      @Tofolux, the meltdown in the US was caused by the government removing the regulations that controlled capitalism. If the Chinese’s economy is doing so well why don’t they let their yuan go up in value? In China the people are sleeping in group home on bunk beds. The great boom in China is caused by western countries investing in China. If life is so good in Brazil, why so many Brazilians risking their lives to come to the US to work?

    •!/MEfimba Makia Efimba

      Julius Malema or ‘Juju’ as he is fondly called easily is a young politician many would love to have on their team. He knows how to electrify the youth and easily channels their cry for economic freedom to the headlines. It is a pity he is leaving the scene. Well that was expected when he said out loud what everyone whispers in their living rooms. The huge unemployment in SA is no joke, it is taking too long for the average citizen to get access to a job, adequate housing, sanitation, healthcare and more importantly education. So the ‘March’ by Juju resonated when he also called for nationalisation of the mines it struck a similar chord. When the govt has no solutions they create diversion. Firing him from the ANCYL is such a cheap trick which will catch up soon with them. You will run out of excuses and people will vote for those who can deliver the goods. Juju represented hope for a better future. The problems cannot be wished away as they say you cannot throw away the baby with its bath water. The authorities should look for a serious plan out of the high unemployment to put the country along the path of growth and social harmony.

    • Sterling Ferguson

      @Tofolux, in the US the corportations are making a lot of money and capitalism hasn’t failed in this neck of the woods. If you look at the state own corportations in SA you will find that most of them are all losing money. As a matter of facts, two corporations in the US have an income greater than all of the mines in SA.

    • Sterling Ferguson

      @Fraud, the alternatives are free market with regulations. Nobody is going to work for nothing to keep the state happy. Most of the state own companies in Africa and this includes SA are losing money never put any world class goods on the market except, natural resources. China and Norway are shareholders in these companies and they are run for profit. The government can’t pad the work force with ruling party members.

    • http://none Lyndall Beddy


      Don’t despair – I get there often as well.

      We are run by a bunch of greedy politicians using racism as an excuse to line their pockets. This has happened elsewhere in Africa as well. Exiles coming back full of self importance and greed to ruin their countries – none of whom had ever run even a business before! All of whom know how to spend money, but not how to make it!

      We are told 163 billion will be spent on fancy trains, and will create 63,000 jobs. The people don’t need fancy trains, which will be immediately vandalised like trains anywhere anyhow. Rather give 63,000 people a million each on a lottery system and save the rest of the 163 billion. At least half of those 63,000 will start businesses and create jobs themselves. What do you want to bet that there are kickbacks involved?

      Don’t forget that out of “Faith, Hope and Charity” the greatest is charity, but for politicians charity begins at home.

    • Dave Harris

      @Lyndell Beddy
      When challenged to come up with new ideas, you speak like a 3rd grader by calling for a lottery system to dole out billions to “start business”. Just shows how clueless you are on entrepreneurship.

      Not surprisingly, you’ve also misunderstood Una legitimate fears of millions of economically disenfranchised black youth due to White Inc’s grip on our economy while constantly whinging about government corruption and “black racism” as the cause of present predicament while denying centuries of white supremacy.

    • Sterling Ferguson

      @Beddy, Corruption in Africa doesn’t create wealth like it does in the western countries and Asians countries. Did Du Bois for see this happening when he wrote the soul of the black folks?

    • http://none Lyndall Beddy


      Neither Du Bois or anyone else could have forseen the collapse of African economies – it was an “unintended consequence” of trying to combine the worst of capitalism with the worst of communism, justified by an exile elite seeped in “entitlement” theories. Communism, as an economic theory, did not exist in the time Du Bois was writing.

    • http://none Lyndall Beddy


      Du Bois was an AMERICAN black. He saw everything from an AMERICAN perspective.

      For instance he saw the Arabs of Africa as black, whereas genetically they are classified white (ref: “Guns, Germs and Steel” by Jared Diamond).

      He had no concept that Arabs colonised Africa 1000 years before the whites.

      In America, under American slavery, there was the “one drop” law. Anyone with one drop of black blood was black!

      Actually most “black” Americans are coloureds, which is what they were called until they re-named themselves blacks in the 1960s.

      But American coloureds are a result of a mixture of white and black races NOT a genetically brown race like the Khoisan.

      The great American hero Thomas Jeffersen had a whole coloured family of children from his wife’s house slave – 2 of whom he helped to escape, and the rest of whom were pledged with the rest of his slaves to the bank! He never could afford to free them as he was always in debt.

    • Sterling Ferguson

      @Beddy, you forgot to mention Strong Thurmond that passed himself off as a hard core racist and had a daughter with his black maid when she was sixteen years old. He took care of his daughter and sent her to the university.

      Speaking of north Africa, a large percentage of the people there are not white but, a blend with the black Africans.

      Why did Du Bois say in his essay the “Veil” that most blacks didn’t see the world like white but, from behind a veil?

    • Sterling Ferguson

      @Beddy, Mbeki gave a speech today and quoted Du Bois more then ten times. Why you don’t like one of the greatest minds of the 20th century?

    • http://none Lyndall Beddy


      I have nothing at all against Du Bois, only against the “unintended consequences” of what are alleged to be his ideas, which were as destructive as the “unintended consequences” of the ideas of Marx.

      And if Du Bois was a socialist, as reputed, how come Mbeki totally trashed the existing Socialist state in SA, and Nkrumah the Welfare State of Ghana, since both were his followers?

    • http://none Lyndall Beddy


      I said that the Arabs are classified white. The original inhabitants of Mediterranean Africa were brown, and their mix is now brown/Arab. Sub-Saharan North Africa has a mix of Arab/black.

    • Sterling Ferguson

      @Beddy, most experts give Du Bois credit for his contribution to Sociology for the method he uses to do the study of the black population in the US. The method he setup is still being used today around the world. I think that he sought the wrong answers to the problem he was able to identify in his sociological studies.

    • http://none Lyndall Beddy


      I am sure that Du Bois was an expert on the USA.

      Which does NOT make him an expert on Africa!

    • Tofolux

      @ Lyndall Berri, I gather that it is very difficult for you to focus and in noting this. I am reminded by our constitution of the diversity, difference and equality clauses that we as SOUTH AFRICANS are bound to.
      Can I ask why you are so pre-occupied with race and its classifications? It seems that you go to great lengths to identify human beings according to a classification. Now can I ask why classifications are so important to make a point. I ask this against the background that it is unconstitutional NOW, to classify human beings according to a colour specification(?) And really, the inconsistencies of the colour construct, how can you identify these colours when they are NOT exact.
      It is hypocritical to accuse those around you of certain things, when you and others amongst us, are guilty of the worse kind of hyprocritical beliefs. How can I take anything you say, seriously? So Berri, deracialisation of the mind is liberating, It opens the mind to new understandings and tolerance.

    • http://none Lyndall Beddy


      Affirmative Action, BEE, and land distribution policies are all built on this Black Racial myths that infiltrated the ANC from America – that is why!

    • Deeno

      I don’t think most hard working middle class rejects Nationalisation of mines outright just because of ANC and Malema. The main reason is for the fear that it will be run like other national enterprises like SAA, SABC, (even looking at Aurora mines)– who has to be bailed out every year. And we all know that there’s much more to be gained financially if the mines are in ANC, oops…I mean National hands. Look how he personally benefited from the Limpopo fiasco.

    • Gareth Setati

      Very apt piece, and it touches on many salient issues, save for one, and it happens to be the most critical one. Also, the commenters seem to have been taken down the same foray, where the most critical issue is unfortunately left unattended.

      The crux of this whole thing is what turned out to be the last straw – and that is Malema’s (or is is the Youth League’s?) brazen violation of ANC Foreign Policy. There is a policy provision, endorsed by many nations, championed by the United Nations, and enshrined in International Law – in one sentence it goes thus: “non-intervention in the domestic affairs of sovereign states.”

      Julius Malema and the ANCYL contravened this critically important international principle, and it is, at least with information that is available for public consumption, the chief reason why the lot is being taken to the cleaners. Any suggestion that thee are political vendettas (or what have you) is an allegation that ought to be subjected to all manner of jurisprudential tests.

      At bottom, neither Julius Malema, nor the ANC, nor the DA, nor the government, nor even you can make capricious plans to overthrow another government, even a puny Botswana, outside of international statutes. That the U.S does it every now and again is matter of circumstance, and besides to argue that point would be a Tu quoque fallacy; that is, two wrongs don’t make a right!

      See, the Botswana government and it’s intelligence agencies would have wondered what’s…

    • Gareth Setati

      See, the Botswana government and it’s intelligence agencies would have wondered what’s potting? They would rationally get straight into the game of diffidence, and to avoid any conflagration, they would have quested the leaders in South Africa to take decisive action against the perpetrators; if anything, as a show of political overture that nothing clandestine is in the pipelines

      I quote the ANC Foreign Policy Perspectives here, in extenso to provide you all an idea of the flagrant violation that Malema and his Youth League are being taken to task for. There is no ambiguity on where the motherbody stands on matters of foreign policy, peaceful intervention, and the sovereignty of nations:

      “South Africa shall be a fully independent state which respects the rights and sovereignty of all nations; South Africa shall strive to maintain world peace and the settlement of all international disputes by negotiation – not war…

      The right of all the people of Africa to independence and self government shall be recognised, and shall be the basis of close cooperation…

    • Gareth Setati

      A belief that Justice and International Law should guide the relations between nations…

      A belief that international peace is the goal to which all nations should strive. Where this breaks down, internationally- agreed peaceful mechanisms to solve conflicts should be resorted to…

      Militaristic approaches to inter-regional security and co- operation should have no place in the reconstruction of Southern African regional relations. These should be rooted in a peace- based, development-orientated approach to regional co-operation…

      A democratic South Africa should therefore explicitly renounce all hegemonic ambitions in the region…

      A democratic South Africa will be committed to resolving disputes with other states through peaceful means…

      We believe that the threat or use of force by one state against another is an unacceptable instrument of foreign policy. It follows that resort to armed hostilities between states represents a failure of foreign policy…

      There are only two exceptions to the prohibition on the use of force by states; international peacekeeping operations and the right of self-defence against armed attack, as laid out in the United Nations Charter and interpreted by the International Court of Justice…”