Letter to Julius Malema
Dear Brother Julius
It is one of those rare moments when we have to write somebody a letter.
Many times, which is the rule rather than exception, we just tell people what we think.Just like that!
In fact, as a writer — and in particular on this column — I love to be polemical and follow the style of that other writer in the west, whose name I can’t recall now, who said as a polemicist he tried to annoy as many people he didn’t agree with as possible.
This is salutary.
In a polarised world, or where there are strong contending ideas and views, it can be a rewarding and fulfilling exercise.
You just have to say things as they are and stand without pretence or, at times, being constrained by political correctness and other phoney limitations.
But it can be dangerous, too.
There are two types of dangers: the writer becomes bigoted, insensitive or even arrogant to the point of destruction of self and cause.
The other danger is that the enemies you create by annoying as many people as you can become a personal danger, especially where they are intolerant, or when one may feel that they have had enough of being annoyed.
You can imagine the kind of hate political writers — like politicians themselves — may have to contend with on either side of a political divide.
But I enjoy immensely what I write in these lines: insofar as, I believe I have confined myself within acceptable norms of decency, common sense, good taste and responsibility. So, I do not regret the choices and views I have made. In that sense, I do not regret the choice that I have made in following you, Julius Malema, with something between admiration and love for your well known political views that are something so familiar.
They are familiar because they are us.
When you speak about land, in particular the repossession thereof from white colonial thieves, you strike a chord with me.
Africans have no reason to regret repossessing, or advocating the repossession of what was stolen from them by colonialists. Many a scion of colonial plunderers, murderers and rapists continue to hold onto the loot to this day.
They also hold onto other means of production and own banks and factories on the back of exploitation of black people, past and present.
The kind of talk you make strikes fear in the heart of the white man.
You tell the white man not to fear because you only ask them to share.
You have also assured the whites that they will not be driven to the sea but you just want every South African to be free, especially economically, and this can only be done when historical and racial inequalities are corrected.
You speak this deriving authority from the Freedom Charter drawn by the ruling ANC in 1955, which you accuse the ruling party of reneging on, leaving free rein to capital.
You think that this is because the leadership of South Africa is afraid of white people. You believe that you are cut from a different cloth. You are cut from the same cloth of Robert Mugabe, President of Zimbabwe — you have said, acted it, accused of it, and hated and loved in equal measure.
This has become definitive of your politics. Radical and left.
You relationship to President Mugabe is to all intents and purposes and as far as we know is more of an ascription by yourself and others than any real personal and organisation affiliation since you left the ANC to form your own party in 2013.
That same ascription is both a blessing and a curse.
It does not take much to realise that on one hand you become so loved by people for being a student or disciple of Robert Mugabe.
On the other, you are hated and ridiculed. You are also feared and called a mad man. There are no prizes for guessing that you came to my attention and admiration on this account as we could not help see a little Mugabe in you, a little us.
There has been general misconception that you may have received funding and support from President Mugabe for your political activities.
However, we have seen no evidence of this — and you may as well tell us — and the truth of the matter is that Zanu-PF and President Mugabe enjoy a strong cordial relationship.
No formal relationship exists between you, as a person and as an organisation called Economic Freedom Fighters, and President Mugabe and his Zanu-PF.
Yet people seem to see this unwritten, unrequited and undeclared affair between you and President Mugabe.
It will interest you to know that when I was in China a few months ago, and at the time of your crucial municipal elections, an ANC cadre confronted me accusing the ruling party of my country of supporting you, an opposition party.
The implication of this was clear — as to the evil glint and snarl on the comrade’s face. It is no doubt that the assumed relationship between you and President Mugabe is problematic for many.
It is for better and worse.
I can see that it is also making you uncomfortable, too, and this is why I have decided to write this short letter.
Let me try to bring out the context.
President Mugabe is such a disliked figure in certain circles, Western circles, and this being mainly inspired by angst to what he did to white capital when he took land and initiated indigenisation.
A convenient label of him is that he is a “brutal dictator” and human rights abuser.
It is fashionable these days among his detractors to accuse him of overstaying in power and refusing to vacate office.
These things are peddled by well-known anti-Mugabe practitioners in propaganda, mainly the white controlled-media in South Africa, the West and here in Zimbabwe.
Those that have learnt communication know about the hypodermic needle theory and the effect of bombardment with messages of a particular predetermined meaning.
Suffice to say, there are well known circles that have been relentlessly spewing propaganda against President Mugabe.
While you may have ignored that — and I recall you urging people not to pay much attention to white propaganda against Zimbabwe — I’m sure the hypodermic needle has finally gotten into you: right under your skin as intended.
You seem to want to dissociate yourself from President Mugabe.
This is not a problem, really, because I do not think he asked for your endorsement in the first place.
What is unfortunate is that in trying to clean yourself of the association, you are doing it in a manner that is clearly intended to impress President Mugabe’s opponents. In your view, you can even gain political mileage out of it. This, my comrade and brother, is unacceptable.
President Mugabe’s primary constituencies are his party and people and to these he is accountable.
They are the very same people who can and do vote him in and out office at party and national levels, and it is common cause that they have chosen him in the capacities that he is today as leader of the revolutionary party and country.
He does pretty well in those twin capacities and this is tested by regular elections.
That President Mugabe is so elected is something that has not pleased his detractors in and out of the country and it is curious that you have joined that bandwagon of detractors and offered “advice” last week.
We were all commemorating and celebrating the life of Fidel Castro and you said: “Like (Nelson) Mandela, like (Mangaliso Robert) Sobukwe, like (Chris) Hani. Castro to us was like (Steve) Biko, like Winnie Mandela. Castro to us is like Robert Mugabe.”
You then felt obliged to say: “Like Castro did, handing over power to his brother, President Mugabe must do the same.”
This, we know, is more about seeking to impress President Mugabe’s opponents and pass for common wisdom.
It doesn’t impress us, as we are aware of the vast wisdom of President Mugabe, which far outstrips yours as to certainly what is good for his legacy.
It will be useful for you to reflect where you stand.
I submit that you can still be a good radical leader without impugning President Mugabe or seeking to curry favour with his opponents or making some such cheap politicking.
Space constraints me, in this little window I am given but I hope you get the drift of my short letter, which shorn of intention to annoy, is from a brother to another, hoping we one day meet and greet each other as we did that day on the Constitutional Hill in Johannesburg as you launched EFF as a “protest movement”.