ANC Youth League leader Julius Malema has led his thousand-strong company of marchers to the Chamber of Mines in Johannesburg, the first stop on their “long walk to economic freedom”.
“These people know what we want: We demand the nationalisation of mines without question,” Malema said, addressing his comrades after they arrived from Beyers Naude square, where the march began just after 12pm.
Youth League deputy president Ronald Lamola read out the marchers’ full memorandum of demands, including that 60% of all mining activities should be owned by the South African government, and the majority of benefication be undertaken within the country.
“These are not unreasonable demands, so you should accede to them immediately,” Lamula said to the Chamber of Mine’s chief executive, Bheki Sibiya, who was on hand to receive the memorandum.
ANCYL president Julius Malema told supporters that Sibiya was the face of white capital.
“He is our brother but he himself doesn’t have a mine.” he said,
“Sign now, peacefully,” Malema told Sibiya. “There is no blood on the floor. To prevent the blood, our demands must be met.”
“You see, we are handing over this memo without blood and in peace,” Malema joked, as the memo was handed over.
From deep within the company of marchers, one anonymous supporter’s voice was heard to retort: ‘Tell us if you want blood, comrade — we are ready!”
The league’s demands included the introduction of probation programmes within companies to give youth skills in mining.
Its memorandum also called for better wages for mine workers and the active involvement of mining companies in the development of the industry.
Lamola said the league wanted the industry to be regulated to avoid the spread of diseases such as asbestosis.
Sibiya said: “We agree with you that unemployment is too high, poverty is too high, inequality is too high, and we must co-operate with you to achieve economic freedom in our lifetime.”
Already tired, but in good spirits, the marchers then set off for their next stop, the Johannesburg Stock Exchange, under the watchful eye of a heavy police presence.
One for the history books
Earlier, Malema had told marchers that the march would change the course of South Africa’s future.
“You are making history today,” he told hundreds who had gathered at Beyers Naude Square in Johannesburg, before setting out.
“This is our long walk to economic freedom,” he exclaimed.
As part of their “economic freedom in our lifetime” campaign, the leadership of the youth league were expecting 5 000 people to march from the square to the Johannesburg Stock Exchange and Chamber of Mines in Sandton, and then on to Pretoria for a night vigil.
The next stop of the march is the Stock Exchange in Sandton — and then to Pretoria where a night vigil is to be held prior to a march to the Union Buildings on Friday.
“Take your time and walk. We have the whole day and night. You must not run,” said Malema.
“If you have a bottle of water, you must share it with your fellow people. We [the leadership] are coming to march with you because we are all from poor backgrounds.”