“A political game-changer and non-conformist extraordinaire” is how commentators described Julius Malema when he wore a red beret for the first time. This was a fitting description until he touched a raw nerve. In this opinion piece I seek not to shower Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) leader Julius Malema with praises but, take an endoscopic look into his political persona. I seek to trace etymological meaning and genesis of fascism and juxtapose it with Malema’s characterization as a fascist leader. My humble attempt is to establish if the fascist’s shoe fits the fire-brand EFF leader who has been compared to notorious autocrats like Benito Mussolini, Adolf Hitler, Idi Amin and Robert Mugabe.
Benito Mussolini and Adolf Hitler
Interestingly, fascism is not an African concept. It’s an ideology that was initiated by Benito Mussolini in Italy when he founded Partio Nazionale Fascista in 1921. Fascism was later perfected by Adolf Hitler in Nazi Germany from 1933 as a leader of Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei. Mussolini took power in Italy and outlawed labour strikes and eliminated all forms of opposition using a secret army called the Black Shirts. Adolf Hitler on the other hand intensified censorship of the press and dissemination of information through the Propaganda Minister Josef Goebbels. The Fuhrer as Hitler was known, promulgated the German nation as Die Herenvolk (Superior Race) that had authority to reign supreme over all inferior races. Six million Jews were killed in the Holocaust in Nazi Germany and Hitler was accredited for initiating the Second War War following the invasion of Poland.
Idi Amin and Robert Mugabe
In the course of their analysis, many commentators, journalists and columnists sought to modify their labelling of Malema by re-branding him as neo-fascist. They compared him to cruel former Ugandan and Zimbabwean leaders Idi Amin and Robert Mugabe respectively. Idi Amin usurped power through a military coup. After severance of diplomatic relations between Uganda and Britain in 1977, Amin gave himself the title “CBE” (Conqueror of British Empire). He further conferred a law PhD unto himself via the Makerere University. During Amin’s reign of terror, more than 100 000 people were killed.
In their unrelenting crusade to re-brand leader of the red beret forces, analysts caricatured Malema as a young version of Robert Mugabe. This is the same Mugabe who entered into the unholy pact with the oppressor when he signed the Lancaster Agreement in 1979. This was how Mugabe lost the plot on land redistribution. He committed not to fiddle with land ownership patterns for the first ten years of Zimbabwean independence. Upon realising that Britain was not intent on keeping its end of the bargain, Mugabe ordered wholesale land grabs in 1997 in which white farmers where chased out of the country with machetes while their farms were consumed by fire. In 1983 Mugabe sanctioned Gukurahundi massacre in which 20 000 people were massacred in Matebele land. In May 2005 Mugabe ordered Operation Murambatsvina (Clean out the dirt) disguised as government urban gentrification programme. http://nehandaradio.com/2012/11/18/gukurahundi-massacres-how-it-all-began-part-1/
In essence Operation Murambatsvina was meant to displace opposition MDC voters who populated urban centres where ruling Zanu-PF was losing electoral fortunes. More than 700 000 people were forcefully removed from urban centres and condemned back to rural provinces where there was limited economic activity. Mugabe further allowed his wife Grace to become President of Zanu-PF women formation and led a faction called Generation 40 which successfully toppled Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa and forced him into exile. https://reliefweb.int/report/zimbabwe/zimbabwe-operation-murambatsvina-overview-and-summary
After meticulous perusal of comparisons above, I’m pleased to announce that our over-rated political analysts and commentators got their wires crossed when it comes to Malema’s characterization and labelling. In contrast to Mussolini, Malema is a champion of the working class. EFF is always in the forefront leading protest marches of disgruntled workers and fighting for their rights. Malema is not anti-opposition – his party is an official opposition in Limpopo and North West provinces. EFF led by Malema voted with opposition Democratic Alliance to take over the city of Johannesburg and did the same with United Democratic Movement in Port Elizabeth. Unlike Hitler who ordered the Holocaust in which 6million Jews were massacred and Mugabe who sanctioned Gukurahundi massacre in which 20 000 Matebele were murdered, Malema has never made a political call which resulted in loss of life. At variance with Hitler, Malema has never declared his black race as superior to other races. He banks on superior logic to put his point across – he doesn’t use propaganda like Hitler did.
Contrary to Mugabe’s modus operandi of wholesale land grabs through machetes and arson, Malema tabled a motion of land expropriation without compensation in South African parliament in February 2018. Malema was never cajoled into waiting for ten years before EFF’s Cardinal Pillar number one was tabled in parliament. Majority of the parties voted in support of the motion. Malema went further to marshal his supporters to attend parliamentary public hearings to articulate their stance on the constitutional amendment to allow for land expropriation. He never called for any farmer to be attacked or murdered for the land they possess. He only pleaded with those threatening to leave South Africa to leave keys of tractors they are currently using. Malema never allowed his wife Mantwa to meddle with EFF’s affairs like Mugabe did with his wife Grace. While Mugabe forced people out of urban centres away from economic opportunities, Malema encouraged people to occupy any vacant piece of land closest to economic hubs.
Malema and Amin comparison is also an oil and water scenario. Amin declared himself “CBE” (Conqueror of British Empire) while Malema was given the title “CIC” (Commander-In-Chief) by EFF members. Amin conferred upon himself a law PhD while Malema is studying towards his Masters degree at Wits university. Unlike Amin, Malema did not ascend to EFF’s highest office by force – he was democratically elected at the party’s inaugural National People’s Assembly in Bloemfontein. I can now say with authority that it is disingenuous to compare Malema to fascists like Benito Mussolini and Adolf Hitler, or even to dictators like Idi Amin and Robert Mugabe.
Who is Julius Malema?
Julius Malema is Commander-In-Chief of red-beret ground forces. His roots can be traced back to Limpopo province in a township called Seshego Zone: 1 (Masakaneng). He’s a sui generis political interlocutor South Africa was never ready for. In his belly resides fire and chutzpah. Malema is a constitutionalist whose party took former President Jacob Zuma to the Constitutional Court to compel him to pay back the money used for non-security upgrades at his Nkandla homestead. He’s a leader of the third largest party in South African parliament. His party boasts more than 8000 councillors in municipalities across the country. Malema leads a party that controls student representative councils in 20 out of 26 universities in South Africa. Commander-In-Chief is one of the four members of parliament who represent 55million South Africans in the Pan African Parliament.
Naysayers have labelled Malema a fascist, war-monger, abuser of democracy and a thug who thrives under monocracy. Well, the Julius Malema I know is not a thug. He’s one of the members of the Judicial Service Commission whose main duty is to interview and recommend South African Judges. Malema sits on this panel with Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng and no sober Judge has ever declined to be interviewed by him.
Malema leads a party with a continental footprint with branches in countries like Namibia, Zimbabwe, Liberia and Nigeria. Commander-In-Chief is not a populist – he’s a political pragmatist. His party managed to persuade Johannesburg Mayor to insource 4000 security guards starting with the first batch of 1600 thereby implementing EFF’s Cardinal Pillar number three. Juju as Malema is affectionately known to his multitudes of supporters, is a law-maker and a law abiding citizen. He has been to every court where Afriforum dragged him on spurious charges. He went to court to argue his case against South African Revenue Services and agreed on R1.8m settlement for his tax non-compliance. In 2015 he marshalled his ground forces to nerve centre of white monopoly capital (Johannesburg Stock Exchange) to hand-over a memorandum of demands. No EFF supporter led by Malema threw a petrol bomb or attacked any white CEO of JSE listed companies. If he’s so unethical, how did he become a member of the parliamentary ethics committee in the first place? It therefore gives me great pleasure to announce that Malema is not a fascist but, a crusader for redress of land ownership patterns in South Africa.
Hloni Nyetanyane is a Freelance Columnist. His blog is: http://www.uncapturedperspective.blogspot.com