It seems the revolutionary is back with a bang and with red berets, his proudly embroidered with “Commander in chief EFF.” The nation was stunned when Julius Malema was expelled from the ANC in 2012, an outcome that was poised to end his political career and relegate him to the radical activist archives of South African political history books. Once a close ally of President Jacob Zuma and president of the Youth League, he was even described by the president as “Being worthy of inheriting the ANC”, which of course was a jaw-dropping moment from some and probably a quote the President might regret uttering, considering how Malema was eventually shown the door, for bringing the ANC into disrepute.
Julius Malema, however is in no hurry to forget, why should he be? He enjoyed popular support from the youth during his tenure as the ANCYL president, he was named in the Forbes List of Africa’s 10 most powerful men, when he talks, people listen, whether they listen to ridicule or to agree with his convictions, they still listen. And while many thought that after his unceremonious eviction from the ANC, that we would bid farewell to this firebrand, he has come back with his own political party, the Economic Freedom Fighters.
Brand Malema is back on the political and business stage, some pundits are whispering in backrooms that he might get a following as the nation’s faith in the ANC wanes, due to the negative economic conditions that the country is facing. Among other ANC woes are general frustrations of the average person on the street about their own economic prospects two decades after independence. Malema has strategically positioned himself as the “voice for the voiceless” and with him being an ANC graduate of politics, he might be a viable political option in years to come, something that has business analysts shiver in their boots.
At the core, his convictions ring true to the South African heart, who doesn’t agree with creating jobs and employment? Who doesn’t agree with economically empowering black South Africans? These are great ideals to work towards as a nation, but many believe that if backed by the nation as a leader, Malema will turn the economy on its head.
South Africa in recent years has been the success story in Africa economically. We attract most of the investment poured into the continent, partnering a great deal with Europe, the United States and the ever so controversial, China. Economic connections have been built with the nation based on the stability of the country, the thriving business environment and though tarnished recently by spots of corruption, South Africa is still considered a gateway to the African market.
Economist are wary when imagining what the perception of national stability will be if Malema gets his way. International investors tend to shy away from countries that participate in nationalization-frenzies, which Mr. Malema wants for mines and banks and…everything. Malema has never seen the need to use “politically correct” speech. He doesn’t mince his words, which may be why he appeals to so many people, and why he doesn’t appeal to international investors. Revolution on the scale that Mr. Malema is advocating is widely considered to the sort that will destabilize markets, with recent labour issues in South African mines doing considerable damage to the industry- what more nationalization?
Many doubt that South Africa can do without the support of international investors. Though South Africa’s other economic partner, China, might not be discouraged by the idea of a “Malema’s South Africa”, Europe and the USA most likely will not be smiling and when they stop smiling, as the self-appointed prefects of the world, they start punishing. It’s an uncomfortable truth, but is the status quo. South Africa cannot afford to get into the West’s bad books, judging by the red carpet rolled out for President Barack Obama two weeks ago.
The South African economy seriously needs a boost and that won’t happen by isolating itself politically from its core trading partners. Whether the average South African that votes will take note of this when deciding if Mr. Malema should one day be the leader of the nation, is another matter altogether. As this new scene plays itself out, the world and the nation will be anxiously watching to see how big of a splash Mr. Malema will make on South Africa’s political and business environment.