Julius Malema: Why global business is ready for a radical change to SA economy

Julius Malema says the compromises at the CODESA talks set the economic empowerment of black South Africans back in the rush to obtain political freedom. He says the state is competent enough to run national banks and mining companies, citing China as an example. He says the DA’s Mmusi Maimane and himself represent a generational change of political leadership, and that President Jacob Zuma suffers from a poverty of ideas. Tim Modise

Julius Malema the Commander in Chief of the Economic Freedom Fighters is with me here on Transformation, and Julius, it’s a pleasure to have you with us here, on our section.

Thanks Brother Tim for having me.

Now, several years ago, not so long ago, you led a march from here to the Union Buildings, of many young people, raising their concerns, economic exclusion, and so forth. Over that period of time, up to today, you are back here at the Stock Exchange. Has much changed for young South Africans?

 

Well, we have not even received a positive response from the Stock Exchange and the status quo still remains. Less than ten percent black people own their shares, said the Stock Exchange, which is a clear reflection that our people are not being empowered as envisaged by our desire for economic transformation.

What exactly did you want to see happen on the Stock Exchange, which you think has not happened up to now?

We want the ownership by black South Africans to increase and it must increase through the willingness of the white minority to give empowerment to the previously disadvantaged people, who have been marginalised for a very long time, and we have not seen that happening. There is extreme reluctance on the part of our fellow white South Africans, who are reluctant to open doors for black players, and we are worried because this has happened for the past 21 years.

The argument goes, Julius Malema, that you cannot expect a white minority, themselves, they are a minority, to hand over shares to black people. The people have got to make investments in those shares, pay for them. Somebody has got to raise capital for that, that it cannot be a handout of sorts, from those who own shares on the Stock Exchange.

Well they might be the minority but they are the majority in terms of the ownership of the wealth and, therefore they ought to take a deliberate decision to open doors for black majority to come in. The blacks do not have money. The blacks do not have the necessary capital, who can actually buy shares and be equal role players.

Once we open opportunities for them, and how they grow from there, it is their own business but we ought to create a level playing field because white minority has got an advantage over black people, and they too are beneficiaries of a system that opened doors for them. It’s not like they possessed some entrepreneurial skills which black people didn’t have.

But then how do you see that happening, especially on the Stock Exchange, and we’ll talk about the real economy in a moment, but in terms of the transfer of shares to black people. How do you see that practically working?

Well the owners of the majority stakes should take a deliberate decision to say ‘we are going to let off certain shares to communities, previously disadvantaged communities. We are going to release a certain portion of our shares to the youth, to African rural women, as part of ensuring that we create a level playing field for black people to play a meaningful role, in business and particularly, in the Johannesburg Stock Exchange’.

I want to go back to the business in a moment but let’s talk about what transpired over this weekend. The Youth League of the ANC in KwaZulu-Natal finally held its Congress and elected a new Chairperson. Then one of the key things he said, or their ambition now, is to go after the EFF – that you stole the ANC’s policies, after all, and they’ve got to show the EFF for what it is.

No, they are kids man. They don’t know what they are talking about, so we normally do not entertain kids. We entertain their parents, who are our equal partners in Parliament and in the South African politics.

So you are not going to respond to that?

No, they are waffling. We don’t take what they say serious.

Coming back to the question of the transfer of shares to the black people, you’ve already expressed some of the views, but in terms of the structure of the South African economy. How do you see empowerment happening there, in the broader context?

Well, we have called for nationalisation of banks. We have called for nationalisation of mines and other strategic sectors, of the economy, including the monopoly industries. We’ve called for the nationalisation of the land, which was stolen from the black majority, and it is through such, which will be in the ownership of the State, which the State will have an obligation to then distribute to the previously disadvantaged people. Ensure that there is a deliberate policy, which includes the majority of black people in the mainstream economy, and not individuals.

But that, we are told, is not workable. The examples given is that you just only need to look at the State owned enterprises and see how they are run and then you will realise what will happen, if the State were to get involved in running businesses, particularly those that are run by the private sector, that the whole thing will become a big mess.

No, even institutions that are owned by private individuals, in the form of private entities, for instance, registered with the Johannesburg Stock Exchange. We have seen some deregistering, and they are not run by the State. They are run by individuals who might not have a very clear strategy on how to grow such companies.

It is not true that the private sector is ‘holy cows’, everything in the hands of the private sector is in their capable hands and therefore it will be run exceptionally well. It is incorrect. There are many State Institutions that are run properly. Transnet is one of such institutions that are run properly. ACSA is such an institution that is run properly, and the majority of our State Institutions continue to discharge their mandate, although, they may not be making profit but it is in their nature that they should provide their co-mandate.

For instance, the SABC, with all its troubles, we continue to watch TV, there’s never been an evening where we’re on a blackout. The SAA continues to transport us, despite its difficult challenges, and we are of a State Subsidy, because we know that if the State doesn’t inject capital in the SAA, we’ll have a problem of getting poor people actually flying. It will be extremely expensive.

It is expensive now, even with the State injecting resources, it is still expensive. Can you imagine without the State putting money in the SAA, we will fail. So SAA, despite politics, continues to provide exceptional service – you know safe flights and professionally managed – so it is meeting its co-mandate, and which is what we are about.

Let’s talk about land, briefly. You are saying from the EFF’s point of view, you want to expropriate without compensation. The argument is that is going to interfere with the rights to property ownership in the country, and it would lead to capital flight from the country.

Well that’s what our leaders compromised us with, during the negotiations to guarantee private ownership of the land. Even when they knew, very well, that the land was actually stolen It was stolen through the committing of black genocide by the colonisers, and we want to bring back that land, in order to restore the dignity of those people who lost their property and those who lost their lives.

We should do that, in respect and honour of those defeated generation, conquered generation, by the colonisers. We will not have a problem of a capital flight because we are going to do this through legislation and it is going to be done in a manner that it is not putting the economy of the country in a disastrous situation.

Argument has been made that the EFF can afford the luxury of saying it will expropriate land without compensation and make all sorts of promises that are unworkable, because it will never ever win the elections in South Africa anyway. That it is a marginal Party that will never become a majority Party in this country.

The Chinese Communist Party has nationalised the land and it owns the land, and it’s the one that allocates the land, both to corporate and to individuals, so it cannot be correct that those who speak about expropriation of land or State ownership of land, are those who are hopeless, actually, of even being a ruling Party.

A land is owned in Zimbabwe, by our people, and Zimbabwe is not doing well, not because black people own land. It is not doing well because of illegal sanctions against them, and if we are not scared of their policy, we should uplift the sanctions and see, without sanctions, if indeed land ownership by the people, will not succeed.

But then given the nature of the international financial systems that they are integrated, for instance, that capital outflows will happen almost immediately, if you had to expropriate land without compensation, and try to nationalise banks, and without capital – you use the example of Zimbabwe – that South Africa will become another Zimbabwe.

No ways, there are now role players, you know, alternate role players in the world, in the internationally economy, and the connectivity of financial institutions is, as it relates to European markets and ownership, of the international economy, the Asian economies also, emerging and ready to play a role in the country. The Russians themselves are now defiant of their status quo and want to create alternative role players, both in the international economy and politics. But also, South Africans should know that every radical change comes with pain, and it is a necessary pain that we’ll have to go through.

Once the international role players see that we mean business and are committed to what we are saying. There is no way, if they went out, they will come back because what we have is what they’re looking for. Platinum is not looking for them. They are looking for platinum and platinum is only found in South Africa and Zimbabwe – 80 percent of the world platinum that’s where it is found, and many other precious and natural resources, which they are in need of, and do not have in their countries.

Those things are found here and once we have nationalised them and they leave, on the basis that they are not happy with our policy, and we stick to our guns. They will come back and try to navigate through a radical policy, which they do not agree with.

Business is not a difficult terrain to deal with. It needs decisive leadership. It needs a very clear policy, and once the policy is clear they will still invest. I mean, imagine business grew in Nigeria, and bypassed the South African economy, you know, even when they had violence and some instability, including terrorist attacks, but they saw business in Nigeria and they still went in, even when it was risky.

So that’s what they do. Once business, I mean once the policy of the State is clear and the politicians are very clear, of where they stand, they always navigate through. They still trade with China today, even when the Chinese economy is State owned.

But all these things, from your point of view are smart things that should be done if you want to accelerate transformation and empower South Africans right?

Yes.

If that is the case, why is the Government not doing that, the ANC Government, at this time?

The ANC Government is compromised because it’s part of the elite pact, which was created during the negotiations and some set clauses were reached, and the ANC is unable to get out of that agreement with capital because remember that our freedom was not the one that was won through the barrel of gun. It was a negotiated settlement, and you know what happens during negotiations, it is give and take, and the ANC took political power, and gave economic power to white elite, and the white elite is not prepared to let go of that economic power.

And the ANC, because of the compromise reached during negotiations, is extremely reluctant to get out of those negotiations. So the EFF is not part of those negotiations, it was never part of those negotiations and therefore, it is not bound by any of the agreements reached in those, or during those, negotiations.

Do you believe that the EFF can enjoy the support that can give the mandate to carry out the promises that you are telling me about?

The EFF is gaining support throughout South Africa. I mean, we are now beginning to take over all institutions of higher learning, and you must know that those are the centres of thinking tanks of our country, and if aspiring, young intellectuals and thinking tanks can begin to appreciate that the EFF seven non-negotiable cardinal pillars are the way to go. Then you should know that the future looks bright for the EFF because young kids in schools. Not just illiterate, you know, well-educated, young people begin to say the EFF is the way to go.

There is a view that Julius Malema is dangerous for the future of the country, especially from the white community, and some commentators from that community regard you as a racist who should not be encouraged to grow his support base.

Well they are entitled to their views and I’ve never been a danger to society. I’ve always grown in the politics of South Africa, and I know what South Africans appreciate and do not appreciate and, as a result, I’ve always insisted that things must be done in a manner that it will not put this country in a difficult position.

I love South Africa more than I love myself and the EFF, and I do all what I do because of the love I have of South Africa. Therefore, anyone who thinks that I’m a danger to society, then is anyone who is opposed to transformation and anyone who is opposed to the empowerment of black people, and such people, I do not have time for them.

Now, the number of public service delivery protests in the country, are growing exponentially, every year. Why do you think that is the case? If you were in charge of the Government, what would you do differently? What is going on in the country that’s leading to so many protest actions?

Well there is a budget deficit in South Africa and how monies are collected for the fiscals. It has been through taxes and those taxes have not been sufficient to meet the demands of our people and the obligations of the State. Therefore, the State has got to go back to the drawing board and say or ask the question ‘how are we going to raise extra capital, to meet the State obligations’? Especially, when it comes to service delivery and infrastructural development, so part of what the State could do is exactly what the EFF has proposed.

That the State should begin to play a greater role in the economy, through ownership and control, and through the proceeds of the participation in business, and then we should be able to grow the fiscus and through the strength of the fiscus, then meet the demands of our people, which is basic service delivery and infrastructural development.

The world has moved substantially, I mean we come from the primary economy of the past, dependent on mining and commodities, right, but we’re moving into the age of this knowledge economy, which requires skills, good quality education, as well as entrepreneurship, because it is small business operators who create employment after all. So what is the EFF’s view / position, regarding those two issues – education as well as entrepreneurship?

Well, in as much as the world has moved, you know, in a very substantive way from mining economy into knowledge economy. In South Africa, we are still looking good for the next, perhaps even more than 50 years, with regards to the mining sector. Still playing a very creative role in our economy and I think that protecting it and participating in it, it still guarantees a very good future for us, as South Africa.

We agree that the world is changing, you know, in a very, very fast pace, and as a result, we ought to cope and ensure that we adapt to new conditions because if we do not adapt to the new conditions, we’ll obviously collapse. So the EFF believes that we ought to introduce a very clear curriculum, which will help our people to acquire the necessary skills because the education system, which our people are exposed to, is aimed at zombifying them and never aimed at empowering them, and giving them the necessary skills.

Therefore, we want a qualitative education, which is free, but also which is compulsory and which will empower a lot of previously disadvantaged people. We ought to go to the best performing countries to ask for the necessary skills, especially when it comes to maths and science, so that those who are qualified and those who are doing well, particularly in Africa (with regards to maths and science) can come and help us produce the best of the best.

Then in the meantime, the EFF Government will take not less than 10 000 young people, to the best universities in the world, and ensure that they acquire the scarce skill in South Africa. Come back home and come and service the economy and the country through the acquired skill in those best universities, which we, as a State, would have paid for.

The entrepreneurs ought to be supported. We need State owned institutions that are going to invest a lot of money – inject a lot of money – in good ideas, which are aiming at creating jobs for our people. And those ideas should be supported in a manner that the State should even take risk, and be prepared to lose money because, as the saying goes – “In order to make money, you have lose money”.

So the State should be prepared to invest in a huge manner and relax the requirements for supporting entrepreneurship in South Africa, because sometimes they want unreasonable demands from emerging entrepreneurs. Even when they’ve got an excellent idea, even when this idea is unique and its innovative, it’s new. The State will still want from that young person guarantees and assess the risk of that person, but where will this person get guarantees, and all manner of things from, because he’s a new role player in the economy, with a brilliant idea. Let’s protect him. Let’s gets professionals into the team, to ensure that this idea sees the light of the day.

Well, a final question, the President has said that Parliament suffers from poverty of politics, and he’s saying this, at the time where there seems to be a shift anyway, in the political situation of the country. Opposition Parties led by young men, young people, in their early 30’s. What do you make of the phenomenon of you and Mmusi being as young as you are, and then you have a veteran of the struggle, President Jacob Zuma, saying what he’s saying about politics in Parliament?

Well President Zuma doesn’t qualify to tell anyone about lacking politics because he, himself, is not political. He, himself, lacks depth, and he lacks political understanding of how the country should be run and where the country should go, politically.

The emergence of Mmusi Maimane and myself, in the political terrain in South Africa, signifies a generational change, and President Zuma should begin to appreciate that the new are being born and therefore, if the old do not die, they will be forced to die by the emergence of the new. He should appreciate that and begin to pave a way for the younger generation.

It happens that 30 years after the liberation, a completely new generation gets born and it feels that it is not binded by the struggles, credentials, and what transpired before because they have their own challenges at that moment. So there is no politics from President Zuma. I mean to say, in a political articulation, he does deviate from political discourse and start behaving like circus.

So I think that the President himself he lacks that depth. If there are no politics in Parliament, the ruling Party is to be blamed because remember that the ruling Party must raise the bar, and then the opposition should feel challenged to meet the bar. And because of the absence of politics, in the ruling Party, then everybody else degenerates, because the ruling Party is the dominant Party, and therefore, if it was dominating with politics, then we will not have poverty of politics in South Africa.

So it is by an admission from himself that the ruling Party, which is a leader of society, by virtue of being a Governing Party, given a mandate by the majority of our people – how is it to, even the opposition, to lead through political ideas.

Julius Malema, thank you very much.

Thank you, Brother Tim.