Charles Cilliers
Journalist
3 minute read
29 Sep 2021
4:32 pm

Why I really hope Malema starts speaking Swahili all the time

Charles Cilliers

One could argue that no longer being able to understand the EFF leader would be a great improvement on the current situation.

Malema giving a speech.

When this website published an article last week about the EFF rejecting Afrikaans as a medium of instruction at Unisa, and asking for Swahili instruction instead, it generated more than 2,200 comments on Facebook.

Though I didn’t read all of those 2,200 reactions, most people didn’t seem too impressed.

It wasn’t the first time the EFF has enthusiastically promoted Swahili, even though I am yet to meet anyone in South Africa who can speak more than two words of it (those two words being “hakuna matata”).

It seems, though, that the EFF’s passion for Swahili is down to more than Julius Malema just watching The Lion King too many times as a child.

It is one of Africa’s most widely spoken languages, and the EFF has said in the past they want Swahili to become the first language spoken throughout the continent as a way to reinforce an African identity, get rid of borders between countries and have a united Africa rise as a challenger to the global dominance of the USA and China.

The EFF are not happy about all the English, French and – increasingly – Mandarin currently being spoken in Africa, and have suggested that the ongoing use these languages of the colonisers allows foreign forces to keep tabs on Africans. By speaking Swahili, this problem will supposedly be solved since the Chinese, British and Americans will have a harder time figuring out what we’re getting up to.

The EFF was happy when the basic education department in 2018 announced that Kiswahili would be offered in South African schools as a subject. I don’t know how that project has fared since then and whether children really are learning this language. I hope it’s going well.

But for some reason, Malema still seems to prefer the language of the globe’s ultimate coloniser, despite the fact that very few white people are ever going to vote for him and there aren’t many of them in any of his audiences, aside from those times he goes to Stellenbosch.

Few people would argue Malema is not an accomplished orator in English – but it’s probably high time that the EFF begins to talk its own Swahili walk and starts impressing us with speaking it. You know, as the example to the rest of us.

If it means so much to them, Malema should begin his next public speech with, at the very least, a three-minute opening exposition delivered in fluent Kiswahili. That would also help to put paid to those sniggerers among us who like to remind everyone of that symbol Malema got in high school for his own home language, Pedi.

Were Malema to successfully become a Swahili speaker, I’m not too sure how he expects voters here to understand what he’s pretending to offer them – but one could argue that no longer being able to understand Malema would be a blessing and something most of us would be grateful for.

Like so much about the EFF (and almost all the other parties, too, to be fair), it’s all just talk. And in the wrong language, nogal.