ANC fiddles while NUM waits for roaming Malema to burn out

Julius Malema addressed mine workers at Lonmin's platinum mine in Marikana after the massacre. (Paul Botes, M&G)

Julius Malema addressed mine workers at Lonmin's platinum mine in Marikana after the massacre. (Paul Botes, M&G)

While expelled ANC youth league president Julius Malema continues to sow dissent in the South African mining sector, the ANC have refused to intervene in the matter, despite warnings his actions are causing untold harm to the South African economy.

"We have never expressed an opinion on Malema apart from that he is no longer an ANC member. As a private citizen he is allowed to do what he is doing," ANC spokespeson Keith Khoza told the Mail & Guardian.

In the wake of the Marikana mine shooting, Malema has called for a revolution in the South African mining sector, which he says will lead to the political transformation of South Africa.

"The democratic government has turned on its people," Malema told people gathered at the memorial held for the slain miners – which eventually degenerated into a political rally where the controversial youth leader decried government's role in the incident.

He laid the blame for the tragedy squarely at the government's door, and used the occasion to call for President Jacob Zuma's resignation.

Along with seven survivors of the shooting, he proceeded to lay charges of murder against the South African Police Service and government.

Malema followed this up with a visit to Aurora's Grootvlei gold mine on the East Rand last week, where he addressed mine workers who haven't been paid in nearly three years.

Workers were left unpaid shortly after the mine was taken over by Aurora Empowerment Systems – a company partly owned by Zuma's nephew Khulubuse Zuma and Nelson Mandela's grandson Zondwa Mandela.

"Our leaders have lost their way and have been co-opted by mine owners and fed profits. They don't care about you," Malema told workers.

On Monday Malema waded into an industrial dispute at Goldfields Kloof gold mine in Westonaria, where workers have accused the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) of representing them without their authority.

They dispute the signing of a R69 funeral policy, claiming it was undertaken without consent.

He used the occasion to call for workers to take over the mining sector and claim what was rightfully theirs.

"He has a point – there needs to be massive change – but he's going about it the wrong way.
No responsible leader conducts himself in this way," political analyst Ebrahim Fakir told the M&G.

Fakir said Malema's actions were "totally irresponsible".

Harmful shenanigans
"This amounts to damaging the economy and jeopardising South Africa’s future," he said. Fakir's stance was echoed by Adenaan Hardien, senior economist at Cadiz.

"The current shenanigans going on in the mining sector is doing untold harm to not only production but investor sentiment," he told the M&G, adding that South Africa's current economic woes of sluggish growth, high unemployment and widespread poverty were not aided by Malema's mine tour.

This is exactly what we don’t need – this would have been very damaging had the economy been rosier, but now this is bordering on a catastrophe,” Hardien explained.

Fakir said Malema's actions were aided by the ruling party's failure to tend to the needs of the poor. "If the ANC and government were more responsive to the needs of the people, Malema wouldn’t have the space to run riot like he is doing now," he said.

Fakir added that the ANC was in a difficult position to deal with Malema as they had  "divided loyalties" in the economy.

"You have people in the ANC who have shares in many commercial entities – especially in the mining sector. It's a tricky situation to be in as the ruling party must balance its interests. Tending to the poor or protecting its senior members," he said.

Pipe dream
The ANC's Khoza countered this view, though, saying it was not the ANC's prerogative to wade into what is essentially a labour matter.

"If Malema wants to agitate workers for his own means, then so be it. The mining sector is organised by the NUM and Malema will to contend with them," he said.

But so far the NUM have also chosen not to take action against Malema, describing his push for a mining revolution as a “pipe dream".

"There is no revolution that will be succeeded by Malema. Its very strange to see people who love the high life to finally decide workers’ needs are important. This is nothing more than a politically opportunistic charm offensive," the NUM's spokesperson, Lesiba Seshoka, told the M&G.

Seshoka added that Malema's crusade would amount to nothing in the end.

"If you give a fool enough rope to run with, he will eventually hang himself," he said.

Seshoka may have a point as Malema is apparently facing arrest for alleged tender fraud in Limpopo. For the moment though Malema does not seem deterred, and has promised to continue his struggle for economic freedom.

"They have our address. They have the contacts of our lawyers. There is no need to dramatise the action. They will have to call me, I will go.  There is no need for drama. I am a well-known individual. I won't run away. The truth will prevail at the end," he told the M&G on Monday.

Nickolaus Bauer

Nickolaus Bauer

Nickolaus Bauer is the Mail & Guardian's jack of all trades news reporter that chases down stories ranging from politics and sports to big business and social justice. Armed with an iPad, SLR camera, camcorder and dictaphone, he aims to fight ignorance and pessimism through written words, photographs and videos. He believes South Africa could be the greatest country in the world if only her citizens would give her a chance to flourish instead of dwell on the negativity. When he's not begging his sub-editors for an extra twenty minutes after deadline, he's also known to dabble in the occasional poignant column that will leave you mulling around in the depths of your psyche. The quintessential workaholic, you can also catch him doing sports on the weekday breakfast show on SAfm and presenting the SAfm Sports Special over the weekend. Read more from Nickolaus Bauer

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