Malema: In a revolution, size matters

ANCYL President Julius Malema spent much of his 90-minute address at the league’s elective conference driving home the need for land expropriation without compensation and “other economic transformation”.

“Our calls for mines to be nationalised and land to be expropriated without compensation is currently our most important issue,” he told thousands of delegates.

Ahead of the upcoming ANC Youth League elections, M&G deputy editor-in-chief Rapule Tabane looks back at the last elections and tells us what we can expect this time around.

Malema, who is assured of an easy win in the league’s presidential election, with all the provinces supporting him over contender Lebogang Maile, entered with President Jacob Zuma at his side; the two sang and danced to the president’s trademark controversial song Umshini Wam before the congress officially began three hours late at the Gallagher Estate conference centre in Midrand.

Gauteng chair Maile opened proceedings, delivering a neutral welcome, followed by an address by Malema, who delivered the “shortest political report of the ANC Youth League” as he joked at 2.25pm, when he concluded.

Malema started off the conference with a nod to the unity between him and Maile, and an off-the-cuff and firmly-worded endorsement of Zuma, slamming media reports of a rift between the two.

It has been reported that Zuma and the ANC were supporting Maile for the league’s leadership, while Malema’s statements that Thabo Mbeki was the ANC’s best president were widely interpreted as a clear sign of attack on Zuma by the once-loyal Malema.

But Malema cast the media in the role of an enemy, causing rifts between the youth league and Zuma.

“They don’t know that sitting here, these are your protectors, these are the people who delivered in Polokwane. These are the people who delivered you to [the] union buildings. And these people will forever protect you as long as you are still a leader of the ANC.

“Where were they when we were protecting you when it was not fashionable?” he said, of the media. “They were at the forefront of sponsoring an attack on your character. Even when we did not know what was in store for us at Polokwane, we were there.

“We subject ourselves to your leadership, comrade president: you have no reason to doubt that,” he said.

Both Maile and Malema quoted former ANC president Anton Lambede, on the fight for freedom. During his opening remarks, Maile had subtly pushed the need for more discipline in the organisation, as his campaign presents him as a more sophisticated alternative to the militant Malema.

In his address, however, Malema used much stronger language, assuring media and delegates that there would not be a repeat of the “ugly picture” of the league’s previous conference in Mangaung, Free State in 2008 that resulted in chair throwing and trousers being pulled down as delegates famously mooned the cameras.

“We got 600 applications from the media,” said Malema. “You know why we had 600? They say we are going to boo each other and take off our clothes, like we did at Mangaung.”

Sizing up the land issue
Malema stressed in his speech the need for a clear majority win for the ANC in the next national election in order to change the Constitution and legalise land expropriation. “In a revolution, quantity and numbers and size matters,” he said, adding mischievously: “It may not matter in other things, but in a revolution, size matters.”

Other topics covered in Malema’s address included the need for one sexual partner for young people—but he was quick to exempt Zuma from the rule, calling him an elder who was protected by the Constitution.

“But you the young ones must never compare yourselves to the elders because we are living in a high risk environment,” he said.

He also took a swipe at the ANC’s alliance partners, saying they had abdicated their role as “the vanguard of the working class”—a role the youth league must now fill, lest they be filled by those in “blue shirts”—a reference to the opposition Democratic Alliance.

“The ANC Youth League should be the voice of the petrol attendants, waiters, farm workers and cabbage carriers,” he said.

Towards the end of his address Malema slammed South Africa’s endorsement of Nato’s intervention of Libya, calling the group of western nations “blood and oil thirsty imperialist”.

“When they are done with Libya they will choose other defenceless African countries,” said Malema.

He ended with a rousing version of the song Ayesaba Amagwala, translated as ‘The cowards are scared”, which contains in its lyric the chant that landed him in the Equality Court—‘Dubul’ ibhunu”, or ‘Kill the boer”—but replacing the offending refrain with the words “kiss the boer”.

Zuma took the podium shortly afterwards to deliver his own address.

For the latest on the ANC Youth League conference click here:

Verashni Pillay

Verashni Pillay

Verashni Pillay is the former editor-in-chief of the Mail & Guardian, and inaugural editor-in chief of Huffington Post South Africa. She has worked at various periods as senior reporter covering politics and general news, specialises in mediamanagement and relishes the task of putting together the right team to create compelling and principled journalism across multiple platforms.  Read more from Verashni Pillay

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