JULIUS Malema is probably a very nice man when you get to know him. But his public persona is something else entirely.
Except for the people he leads in the youth wing of the African National Congress of South Africa, most people must find him a little hard to take.He could be the product of apartheid, a philosophy that turned perfectly sane Africans into raving maniacs and even lunatics.
Its dehumanising concept of regarding all non-white people as almost sub-human deserved, thoroughly, its ignominious end.But when Malema keeps trying to justify the old song Kill the Boer in present-day, democratic, non–racial South Africa, he is demonstrating a narrow-mindedness utterly inconsistent with the philosophy that anchors the Rainbow Nation.
What Malema and all other youthful Africans ought to be sloganeering loudly about is “Kill the Greed” — as the young people of North Africa and the Middle East are doing.
All you have to recognise are the causes of their biggest gripe. You cannot ignore the leaders’ greed as the main cause of their fury.
TV footage of the palatial residences of Tunisia’s Ben Ali after he had fled the country must have struck even non-Tunisians as obscene examples of how he looted his country as the majority wallowed in poverty.His illness while in exile must have resulted from his realisation that there would be hell to pay.
Exposed for the world to see were examples of how he squandered taxpayers’ money on a luxurious lifestyle on his family and relatives. Hosni Mubarak of Egypt suffered ill-health as soon as it was announced he would be asked to account for his family’s vast wealth.
He himself is likely to be charged with ordering the killing of scores of demonstrators in Cairo.Muammar Gadaffi and his sons have killed unarmed citizens because they too know that, in the end, they must pay for stealing the people‘s birthright.Such greed is not peculiar to Africa. Greed is one of the ugliest sins for which death is the ultimate punishment.
African leaders who have quietly left office and have not been brought to court to explain their vast wealth include Quett Masire and Festus Mogae of Botswana. Kenneth Kaunda of Zambia and Bakili Muluzi of Malawi are also among the “innocents”.
History may not absolve them of some of their monumental political blunders, which led to their defeat in elections.
Thabo Mbeki belongs to this group too, except that he will be remembered for taking his medicine with courage.There has been no deep analysis of why African leaders, presiding over people collectively described The Wretched of the Earth, somehow manage to combine their leadership with illicit wealth-gathering. The men who have faced rebellions in North Africa and the Middle East are all rumoured to be filthy rich.
Some have been in power for 30 or more years, during which they have gathered so much wealth, they are unofficially counted among the richest people in the world. In one case, the wife of a president is embroiled in a nasty scandal in which a wealth-gathering deal went sour.
In another case, a president’s daughter was said to own a chain of nightclubs in the capital city.There are hardly any instances in which such people have prospered on the basis of what they earned in their jobs. They have huge tax-free allowances, do not pay rent and medical bills or school fees. Yet, even if they left their monthly salaries untouched during their terms of office, they would not afford the properties some of them are said to own in the United States, Britain, France, Switzerland and Germany. It’s extremely generous to make the argument, in their favour, that most of this could be the result of wise investments.
There are laws which restrict the financial activities of the heads of state.
While they lead the country and are powerful enough to determine where state funds should be spent, they should never be allowed such liberties as investing in properties or foreign companies.
It should be made so difficult for them to be greedy that they should know the high price they might pay.