Throughout 2011 the leader of the African National Congress Youth League (ANCYL), Julius Malema, has been making headlines for all the wrong reasons in South Africa’s media industry and the reporting on him has been pretty negative. Event he views by some intellectuals have not been flattering ones and some of those who often comment on him think he desperately seeks media attention and wants to be seen as a champion for the poor when South Africa’s history books are re-written in future. He is also undergoing a disciplinary hearing at the ANC and there are those who think he clashes with leadership, especially President Jacob Zuma.
But lately Malema has impressed me much. He has been criticised for bringing the topic of nationalisation to South Africa’s many discussion tables. He may not be the right person to talk about this, but someone had to as millions of South Africans live in dire poverty while a small minority enjoys the wealth that comes from resources such as platinum, gold and diamonds that our beautiful nation has.
His latest idea which came to fruition on Thursday, 27 October 2011, was criticised by some commentators, journalists and some in social media. Even at it was starting some were predicting many of those who were there at the beginning would not make it all the way to Pretoria from Johannesburg. But they did make it and the critics never apologised or admitted their predictions were false. It’s estimated that those who joined the young Malema on his economic freedom march were estimated at over 10 000.
Along the way there were two stops – one at the Johannesburg Stock Exchange (JSE) and another at the Chamber of Mines before proceeding to protest on the Union Buildings in South Africa’s capital, Pretoria. The 60km walk couldn’t have been easy and many picked on Malema’s physique predicting it was the result he wouldn’t make it far. One or two fell along the way, but that didn’t stop the other thousands from continuing.
The importance of this march was shared by many on twitter while critics continued to make fun of it. I am one of the supporters of such initiatives – it may not bear fruit tomorrow or the day after, but it will make many notice that young, unemployed South Africans have a voice too and they also want to share in the economy and the growth of Africa’s richest nation.
South African Prisoners' Organisation for Human Rights president, Golden Miles Bhudu, was there too saying: "We want economic freedom in our lifetime. When the intellectuals and rich are sitting in their boardrooms, they must know that we mean business.”
Julius Malema has brilliant ideas but he lacks strategies and skills to implement these ideas. He knows what is right and what is beneficial to the youth, he just can’t articulate this in a manner that is acceptable to those who speak English through their noses and received a better kind of education they could afford to pay thousands for. He says things as they are, he doesn’t have any hidden agenda.
Maybe many are uncomfortable with the fact that he is never politically correct, but politically correctness would mean bowing down to certain individuals and not realising your dreams and ideas.
This march is not against the ANC and President Zuma. It is about the youth living in hunger and seeking economic freedom. After all the effort he puts on a struggle against economic freedom. These people would normally be ignored and at least someone is giving them some kind of voice. If there is a hidden agenda, at least there is a bigger struggle being fought for hiding that agenda.