In 1990, the then future SA president Nelson Mandela said during an ABC News interview with Ted Koppel that “anybody who changes his principles depending on who he is dealing with, that is not a man who can lead a nation”.
This was his response after Koppel said Cuban Americans would be offended by the ANC’s stance on the then Cuban president Fidel Castro. Despite there being many controversies surrounding Castro, among them accusations of dictatorship, Mandela stuck to his guns in defence of the communist revolutionary.
He argued that “our attitude towards any country is determined by the attitude of that country to our struggle”, and, for the ANC, their attitude towards Castro was determined by the fact that Castro supported the fight against apartheid, not “only in rhetoric; they are placing resources at our disposal for us to win the struggle. That is the position!” Mandela declared.
From this argument, you can see one of the leadership skills displayed by the late freedom fighter. He didn’t say one thing when he was with Castro and another when he was with the media or in the United States. One thing Mandela was warning against was the danger of leaders who act like chameleons.
This makes one wonder about the apparent casual changeability of EFF leader Julius Malema. What exactly is Malema fighting for? Is it against “white monopoly capital”, as he always says, or it is in fact the opposite, as many of his biggest critics claim? The only thing the EFF leader has been consistent in doing is playing Madibuseng.
Madibuseng, a Sesotho word, is best described by Kwaito group Trompies as someone who acts like a traffic light – sometimes he’s red, sometimes he’s green, sometimes he’s orange.
Malema exemplifies the character of Madibuseng. Like the Dulux ad, he’s “any colour you can think of”, and he often changes his stance.
He just keeps on changing, flipping and flopping. There are many examples one could offer, but here are some of the most obvious ones.
While still in the ANC, he famously spoke of how he was prepared to kill for Jacob Zuma. After his expulsion from the party for turning against the very same Zuma, he subsequently formed the EFF, and said he regretted ever fighting for Zuma to be in power. He took to the media to apologise for “giving” us Zuma.
The president is now Malema’s biggest enemy, and there’s hardly a media briefing without him referring to Zuma as “a thief”.
Remember the late Fezekile ‘Khwezi’ Kuzwayo, the woman who accused Zuma of raping her? The EFF leader, while still in the ANC, responded to her rape accusation by saying she must have had “a nice time” and “enjoyed it” with Zuma. Later, and rightfully so, he apologised and said he regretted his remarks.
In 2015, the EFF leader told reporters in Johannesburg that Zimbabwean president Robert Mugabe was not to blame for the problems the country was facing.
“We don’t see what’s happening in Zimbabwe as anarchy. We don’t blame it on President Mugabe, we blame it on capital … [It is] because they disagree with him politically, they use their economic muscle to punish the people of Zimbabwe,” said Malema at the time.
Fast-forward to January 2017, Malema tells reporters “Zimbabwe’s situation is bad. President Mugabe can’t even control a spade. That’s how old he is. He’s no longer capable of discharging his responsibilities.”
He called Mugabe a “grandpa” who “must let go” of his presidential duties.
Also in 2015, Malema said: “[We will] occupy Absa, each and every branch of Absa, until we are given a practical programme of action on how the bank is going to intervene to resolve the inequalities in society.”
In 2017, Malema and his people are yet to occupy Absa. Instead, Malema has now changed his tune. He was one of the first politicians to call for the bank to pay for the money it allegedly stole during the apartheid era, but the EFF leader now says “we reject all disingenuous political campaigns like the Absa pay back the money campaign, which in the main is a Gupta- and state security-sponsored campaign aimed at saving the current kleptocracy status quo”.
He argued the EFF would first wait for the announcement of the repo rate before it could “occupy” the bank.
I’m not saying they should be occupying Absa, merely pointing out they’ve been rather inconsistent in what they say and what they end up doing.
After his party voted for Busisiwe Mkhwebane as public protector, now, after just 100-plus days in office, the EFF leader says they regret putting her in office.
Can we really trust that Malema will not change whatever he promises his supporters today? Can he be trusted with land and banks, along with all this country’s significant mineral resources? What if he regrets ever calling for the nationalisation of mines and banks, and the expropriation of land without compensation?
That wouldn’t be surprising, of course. But do the people who support him have any idea of what they’re actually voting for?
Even if your argument is that Malema is still a young man who makes mistakes and at least has the courage to admit those mistakes and change his ways when in the wrong (which is a valid point in itself), one would still be left with the concern that he’s very quick to make poor judgments and pronounce on matters he clearly doesn’t fully understand.
We can’t be placing all our trust in an “I’m-so-sorry-about-last-year” kind of politician.