Julius Malema spoke to Chris Erasmus on what fires his passion, philosophy, the state of Africa and pretty much all else that propels him into the news every so often
Have you the experience needed to run a complex country like South Africa?
When Nelson Mandela, walked out prison, he’d never had experience of being a president. To be a political figure you don’t require experience. There are men and women who are well equipped and experienced who will be there to advise you and consult with you to achieve your vision. What matters is having political will. We have been in the youth movement, in the ANC leadership, and are now in Parliament. We think we have amassed a bit of experience in terms of leadership and are more than willing to do whatever it takes to realise our objectives.
Does that mean pulling triggers?
No. This issue of “triggers” will be triggered by the response of the state. If the state responds to peaceful protests with violent actions, we will have no option but to fight back because that is what Madiba did with his generation. They were peaceful until they realised peace was not working. They went on to form an armed wing. So, we are today doing everything in our power, within the constitution, to achieve what we are fighting for.
Does that imply that you are not prepared to be an “also ran”?
I will not be around forever. I want to lead. Every teacher wants to become principal. So we will definitely lead.
Are you predicting you will lead South Africa?
Has your political life come at significant expense to you personally?
We have made a lot of sacrifices, including not having a social life. I am a political animal and sometimes we step on people’s toes. You get isolated. I was expelled (from the ANC) for expressing the views that I hold and I lost a lot of property and friends for the vision I had for the country. It comes with a very, very heavy price.
Have you moderated over the years?
No. We are still a very angry nation because of the colonial and apartheid past. We now have a way of saying the same things in a better way. As you get older you can’t have that same energy. The ideas are still the same. And so is the passion.
How do you feel about economic initiatives like the Africa Continental Free Trade Agreement, the EAC, Ecowas, and similar regional formations?
They are very good because ultimately, we want one Africa with one president, one currency and one language.
Is that not much the same view that Muammar Gaddafi (the late Libyan president) had?
We need that. We need a borderless continent. The (current) states can remain as provinces or states within (a federal system).
You want a United States of Africa?
Absolutely. With one passport without borders. The Europeans are doing it. If they can do it in Europe, why are they denying us?
What of the recent forcible removal of (African) refugees in Cape Town?
Those refugees belong here. They should live among us...and not live as one big group. Africa was a borderless continent and has always been. These borders were imposed upon us. They are not of our own making. So you can’t say you don’t support colonialism or apartheid but you support borders. You are unwittingly supporting colonialism. Borders were for colonial purposes, (to) divide and conquer the continent.
Agreements like the free trade area are actually taking towards the correct direction. A unified Africa?
A unified Africa. South Africa is starting to remove certain visa requirements from some African countries. We support all of that and every effort that seeks to unite the continent. If you travel to Lesotho, there is no longer a fence us, but a gate. Lesotho men come and date girls in South Africa and go back without crossing any border.
We want the continent to be one, and that’s how we are going to defeat the so-called xenophobia. There is no xenophobia in South Africa. Just a few elements who don’t know what to do with their frustrations and they take it out on the weakest.
You have been variously quoted as “someone who raises issues such as nationalisation and land reform… to trick the poor…while amounting person wealth”. You have also been accused of being racist, of sowing social and political divisiveness and even of being a “fascist”, while also being “one of the youngest power-men of Africa” and a “rising political star in Africa”. How do you see yourself in light of these opposing views?
I am a humble servant of my people. I fight for them. I help where I can. Every day, if I try to help one person, no matter how, and see that person smiling and appreciating, I am satisfied and happy. So I do not need much.
When they say I am populist or an opportunist because I want votes from people and all that… I did these things when I was a child. The march which took place when there was damage here in Jo’burg, I was 15 and protesting for free education. Not because I wanted votes.
I did not start saying these things in the EFF because I want people to vote for the EFF. I said them in the ANC Youth League, and in the ANC itself.
I grew up with these ideas. We were promised that once we won our freedom water, electricity, tarmacked roads and uncongested houses will follow. That my mother can have her own house, separately, fascinated me because we were so many in our house. That’s what drove my passion. My consciousness comes from the collective experiences of our people.