Sorry to spoil the party, Julius — do you remember us?

Dear Julius Malema: I’m a year younger than you. I still live with my mother in a four-room house in Soweto. I drive a small car that cost me probably what you’ve paid on your suits. I survive on a strict budget each month. After paying all my expenses, I’m left with what I guess you spend on entertaining your friends in one night.

I almost envy you: you’re an incredible exception to the average twenty-something South African. What is it that you’re doing so right that most of us are getting so wrong?

You’re too glamorous, too rich, too loud and too arrogant to identify with. Don’t get me wrong; I’m not saying you should go back to your leather-jacket days because that would be unfair — that jacket was too hideous! I’m saying merely that you are not a typical young person.

It’s funny because our backgrounds are similar. We both grew up in townships and have our grandmothers to thank for raising us and making sacrifices to ensure that we lived to see another day.

But I still wonder: where did I go wrong? What should I have done to avoid landing up as a young, broke black woman who lives with her mother in a township?

Looking back, I think I know where you and I diverged along the way. While you were boarding a bus to Jo’burg to bury Chris Hani at the age of 12, I was playing house with my friends. While you were getting military training at 13, I was home doing my homework.

While you were heading the student body Congress of South African Students at 21, I was studying for my journalism degree. And, finally, when you landed the top job of the ANC’s youth leader at 27, I was chasing stories about you and your colleagues for a weekly paper.

You cannot be blamed for the choices I made. But what you are guilty of, Julius, is transforming yourself into a million-dollar creature in front of the many young people who thought you identified with them — people who thought you shared in their struggles.

Somewhere along the way you succumbed to all the glitz and glamour of the city of gold. You became weak. Greed took over. And now you’re an addict of all that’s shiny and comes with expensive tags. You sold out, Julius.

I’m not questioning your contribution to the struggle of this country; you did what you felt passionate about. You took your battle to survive and succeed as a black man to the streets, while most of us your age remained stuck behind desks.

The road you chose is finally paying off and I can’t help but feel that you’re showing us — the educated bunch — the middle finger every time you open your mouth and speak about your possessions. You’ve left us all wondering whether getting an education in this country is worth it at all.

I feel sorry for the young kids who look up to you and the message you’re sending them. Why should any of them bother going to school, when their leader exemplifies why one doesn’t need a matric certificate or a degree to own a house in Sandton and drive a Merc?

You claim in an interview that your lifestyle represents the youth today. Who are these young people you’re talking about? It’s certainly not me. I still don’t qualify to buy a house, let alone afford rent.

If you got over yourself for one minute, you would realise that this is the plight of many young South Africans. So what are you doing about this besides spraying expensive champagnes in our faces?

In the past few weeks you have spent more time defending your lifestyle than attending to what you were elected to do. We need to be debating job opportunities, our education system — better and affordable universities, for instance — and higher salaries for all.

You are not auditioning for the ANC’s next top model. You are a leader. The youth of this country want you to fight for them — and with them — so that they too can taste the sweet life that you and your friends are rolling in.

If this is what your leadership has come down to, then I don’t want anything to do with it. I’ll remain at my mother’s place without any regrets about the decisions I’ve made. At least there, I won’t have sleepless nights over any audit of my lifestyle.

Regards, Jackie.

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