The fall of Rhodes’s statue is only the first step, says Malema

The fall of late imperialist Cecil Rhodes’s statue at the University of Cape Town (UCT) won’t be a meaningless token action, but a major step towards defeating white supremacy in South Africa.

This is what Julius Malema, leader of the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF), told delegates at the summit of the party’s student wing at the University of the Witwatersrand on Sunday. Members of the EFF Student Command from 103 university and college campuses across the nine provinces attended the summit.

Delivering a keynote address, Malema urged the students to reject attempts by some influential people to trivialise the “Rhodes Must Fall” campaign by students at UCT. Those people ask “when Rhodes falls, then what?” as if the campaign is “just a small thing”.

“It is not a small thing. [The campaign] is an onslaught against white supremacy,” said Malema.

“It is that statue that continues to inspire [whites] to think that they are a superior race, and it is through ­collapsing of these types of symbols that the white minority will begin to appreciate that there’s nothing superior about them.”

Downfall of race supremacy
The UCT students’ protest campaign to have Rhodes’s statue on campus removed enters its third week on Monday. Malema described it as just “one very important step in the correct direction”.

“We should never be questioned ‘when Rhodes falls then what’. It’s not an event, [but] a process. We collapse Rhodes today and then collapse all other systems and then begin to educate the white minority that you are not superior. You are equal [to black people].

“We ought to teach them that they are not superior, neither are they inferior. We’re equal partners. We seek a better world that is characterised by friendship and peace. But there will never be friendship and peace if the other thing is superior to the other one.”

Malema cautioned the EFF student members against believing that “when we collapse white supremacy we’re going to replace it with black supremacy”. “If there are any of you here who think [this], you’re creating another problem.

“You’re creating a problem for yourself because the day people feel oppressed and the day they think that you’re imposing yourself on them, that is the beginning of a revolution against you. So, we do not want a revolution against a black race. A black race naturally is a very peaceful race and it doesn’t seek dominance.

“You must never buy into extremists who say we must replace this with that. No, that’s not what we’re here for. We’re here to liberate the black race to enjoy the rights and freedoms enjoyed by all.”

The rule of many
Black South Africans would “ordinarily dominate” because they are a majority, said Malema. “It doesn’t happen out of arrogance, particularly in South Africa we’re many, and therefore we’ll just be dominant. But it’s because we’re many, not because we’re imposing ourselves on another [and] not because of legislation that seeks to create black people as a superior nation.”

He said white South Africans shouldn’t have a problem with black rule because “ordinarily you must be under us”.

“… When you’re visitors you must always behave. Don’t visit me and want to behave like you’re superior to me. But because we’re not obsessed with domination of others, we believe that we’re equal and ought to enjoy equal rights and opportunities.”

Malema defended comments he made two weeks ago that black people wanted to live like whites. “I made a point at Stellenbosch [University] that our struggle has been the struggle to live like white people, and some people who thought they knew Black Consciousness better than all of us then criticised me that ‘no, he’s talking about Range Rovers’.”

He dismissed his critics on this matter as “lacking thought process”.

“It is only small minds that think about materials. You don’t process what [I’m] saying.

“We want to live like white people because their right and their race is recognised as a human race. We want our human race to be recognised in the same way the white race is recognised.

“[The black race] must participate anywhere it wishes to participate without any limitation. It must accumulate anything it wishes to accumulate without any limitation on the basis of the colour of their skin.”

‘ANC wants illiteracy’
The EFF Student Command, which is to be formally launched in June at the University of Limpopo, should dedicate itself to the fight for implementation of fee-free, quality education, Malema told the delegates.

“Your first cardinal pillar should be about free education. Leave the land to the mother body. Leave the mines to the mother body. We’ll deal with those things. You must deal with free quality education.”

The campaign for free education needed this approach from the students “because once you attain free education then we know that a sustainable solution for ­economic freedom has been attained”, said Malema. “If we give people economic freedom and they are not educated that freedom can always be taken away from them.”

Access to free and quality education would help increase levels of literacy and knowledge among rural and urban poor South Africans, he said.

This in turn would help the EFF wrestle power from the ruling ANC. “The ANC will never survive in an ­educated society. It’s going to collapse through free education. The free education programme is a programme to collapse the ANC.

“The ANC wants to perpetuate illiteracy because it benefits out of it. When people are illiterate, the ANC stands to benefit.

“Capitalism reproduces illiteracy because it is through illiteracy that people will be ignorant, and once they are ignorant the capitalists do as they wish. Education then helps us to defeat the evil system of capitalism.”

Ideologically free
Malema said he’s not calling for free education only in terms of costs, but “it must also be free ideologically. It must be an education that liberates the mind of an African child, that teaches you self-respect and love”.

“It is education that must teach you about all these ideologies. [Teach you] what are the benefits of all these ideologies, and then you can make your choice. It must not be an education system that ridicules and vulgarises other ideological perspectives.

“It is as a result of illiteracy that our people think that the Democratic Alliance can be an alternative, because they’ve got no idea what we’re dealing with.

“Our people think that the inability of the ANC to deliver is because it is not led by white people. So, they think if we were to get white people to lead us then we’ll be productive and our economy will grow and people will get jobs. That is not true.”

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Bongani Nkosi
Bongani is an education reporter at the Mail & Guardian.

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