The World According to Julius Malema

The Mail & Guardian’s Mandy Rossouw has co-authored a book with Max Du Preez about African National Congress Youth League (ANCYL) president Julius Malema. Here’s an excerpt:

Malema claimed the ANC won the youth vote by making the ANC ”cool”. Part of that was projecting a lifestyle image that they would find aspirational.

He insists that he lives within his means, but his rise to riches happened in a flash — he’s never had a job outside the ANC. Parties are held at the trendiest clubs in Johannesburg, where there is no limit to the consumption of Johnnie Walker Black Label whisky and Veuve Clicquot French champagne. He lives in a big, smart house in upmarket Sandton and is always seen in expensive cars, from BMWs to Lexus’s to Mercedes Benz’s.

Very comfortable in designer labels such as Fabiani, Malema insists that his flashy lifestyle shouldn’t be an issue. ”It’s not me, it is this office. When I come here they give me a cellphone, a laptop, and they’re trying to make my work easier. I don’t know which car is which one. When they come to me and say, ‘chief, we are using this car today’, I get in and we go.”

There is nothing wrong, he says, with a flashy lifestyle ”if you can afford it”. ”We have deployed many young people in parliament, their salaries are far beyond the duties they are responsible for. They don’t have kids, they don’t have big families. So if they think they must invest their money in houses, cars, why stop them? They are doing that legally. As long as they don’t forget where they come from and their obligation of serving the working class. The car that I drive means it meets my salary and the ANC car scheme. The house that I have, it means my salary can afford it, so I didn’t rob anybody, I didn’t take from the poor to have what I have.”

Then Malema gets to the main rationale for his (and supposedly for other ANC personalities’) ostentatious lifestyle: ”If we are going to refuse the youth to drive these cars it means they are only good for white youth. Ours will never drive those cars. So we must sit and appreciate the good things by whites and not by one of our own. That’s what we’re trying to break.”

In similar vein he told Sowetan in December 2008: ”We are the elite that has been deliberately produced by the ANC as part of its policy to close the gap between whites and blacks in this country. It was the ANC that made it possible that, as part of the elite, some of us are now able to live in the suburbs.”

Malema admits that patience is no virtue for him. He describes his leadership style as ”down to earth” but impatient with change. He uses the words militant, radical and revolutionary a lot in describing himself and his organisation. ”We are radical, impatient with change, if you want to see things happening they must happen now. So that’s what characterises who we are.”

Malema may be tactically clever and politically street-smart when it comes to the disaffected youth, but he is definitely not one of the greatest political theoreticians in the ANC. For instance, he refuses to read newspapers. When Crwys-Williams asked him about this during her interview with him on Talk Radio 702, he said: ”I’ve listened to people who read papers. They replace political education through editorial comments. I don’t want to suffer from that illness. To hear politicians say Malema is a problem — to me that person has replaced the political language through editorial comment, because that is how they call it on the big post: Malema this, Malema that.

”Now I don’t want to be influenced by newspapers. I live amongst the people. I’m on the ground … I don’t need newspapers to replace the honest view of the ordinary masses, because I’ve got access to those people.”

When asked how his world view was informed if he didn’t read newspapers, he said: ”When I want to know about a certain country I will make a research about it and go through the relevant material. I don’t just read everything that is going to mislead me.”

But Malema probably also has reason for being cynical about newspapers’ treatment of him. Reporters have milked every statement he’s made for something controversial and have prodded him to come up with another outrageous utterance.

He tells the story of how he once challenged Tokyo Sexwale to write him a speech which he would then read in public. ”I said to him by the time you read it in the newspaper, Comrade Tokyo, you will think it isn’t your speech, because they will find a creative way to twist it and make it look horrible. And you’ll be afraid to be associated with that speech by the time they’re printing it.”

To read more, including some choice quotes by Malema himself, get a copy of The World According to Julius Malema.

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