Julius Malema crushes on 'civilised' England

Julius Malema was a hit in Britain. (Delwyn Verasamy, M&G)

Julius Malema was a hit in Britain. (Delwyn Verasamy, M&G)

Julius Malema is back from a tour of the United Kingdom, which was dominated by a comment the Economic Freedom Fighters leader made critiquing Nelson Mandela’s legacy. But what else happened on the trip?

What were the highlights of your trip to the UK?
The platform to speak at the Oxford Union and Chatham House, the meetings with the pan-African movement and how interested big captains of industry were in the EFF.

They were seeking an assurance that their investment in South Africa is not under threat. They were worried about the radical policies of the EFF and, in most cases, they misinterpreted where we stand. But after an explanation, 80% were persuaded. They say they might have problems with us being Marxist-Leninist as they are capitalists, but they agreed that workers should have shares and benefit more.

Who did you enjoy meeting the most?
I enjoyed the students. I engaged with young white people and told them the EFF stands against white supremacy: that none of them of should think being white makes them a superior human being.

What did you think of where that country finds itself?
One of the things I said to them was that, when they came back from war, they nationalised strategic sections of the economy. They didn’t put it in the hands of free-market capitalists; they had to rebuild it themselves. They are a highly educated society.

We said: “We want to be like you: we want to have a situation where there is reliable public transport and roads.” I mean, the internet service there is something out of this world. If you see the speed of internet, it’s like: What have we done wrong that we can’t have these facilities?

And then there was the civilised conduct of individual people. The way they treat each other, with respect. Even with people who drive cars, they give each other time and space. I don’t think I heard people hooting there. And the levels of punctuality and the respect for meetings and professionalism gives you an inspiration that one day our country will be like this.

You think we’re not civilised enough?
We are still treating each other with attitude. Of course, we are a Third World country and there is still some backwardness. It comes with the territory when you are a developed country with an educated society: they are able to be accommodating and supportive of one another.

There is still racism in the UK but its levels are completely different to what you’ll see here in South Africa, where you can literally touch racial hatred, segregation and exclusions.

Once our country comes of age and realises economic freedom it will be much better than the UK, because Africans by their very nature have a spirit of ubuntu – but the conditions of our country make it difficult.

Do you think you behaved in a civilised manner in this latest spat with the Mandela family over his legacy?
Civilisation doesn’t mean political mediocrity and that you must accept nonsense because you want to appear civilised. I don’t care how much money you have or who your family is. I don’t just accept nonsense.

Why should we personalise Mandela? We must accept that he will be subjected to scrutiny, alive or dead. We mustn’t get so emotional when other politicians critique us. There is nothing personal; I love Mandela personally. When I grew up I wanted to be like him. That doesn’t make him Jesus or Muhammad.

Is South Africa ready to critique Mandela’s legacy?
Those who are not ready are in for a shock, because we will do that. Every political figure must be critiqued.

Including yourself?
You are known for doing that. And I still talk to you, I still sit down with you. Sometimes I take my phone and shout at you because we are human beings and we persuade each other, but it doesn’t make you my enemy. We are trying to find a solution for South Africa and the whole world.

 
Verashni Pillay

Verashni Pillay

Verashni Pillay is the editor-in-chief of the Mail & Guardian. She grew up in Laudium, Pretoria, learned her trade at Rhodes University in Grahamstown, spent a spell in Cape Town as an online journalist, and now loves living in Jozi. Her interests are broad but include a focus on politics and multi-platform storytelling. Read more from Verashni Pillay

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