Chris Zumani Zimba, Political Scientist, Author, PhD Scholar, Lecturer, Researcher and Consultant
Every time Julius Malema speaks, he makes good political statements and consequently magnificent media headlines. This consistently proves that he is a great politician and genius leader. Going by what he said at Winne Mandela’s funeral in South Africa yesterday, there is a national, regional and international wind of political applause and praise of admiration with reference to his speech as ‘highly emotional, political and powerful’. “If it is true that the ANC wants to honour Winnie Mandela, name the Cape Town Airport Winnie Mandela Airport… I am here not so much to bury Mama, because Queen Mother do not die, they just multiply into millions of red flowers of love and freedom…Mama, those who sold you to the regime are here, crying louder than all of us who cared for you”…these are some of the words of Julius Malema, Economic Freedom Fighters (EEF) leader during Winnie Madikizela-Mandela’s funeral at Orlando Stadium in Soweto, Johannesburg, South Africa.
But very few people are talking and praising the real structural factors behind Julius Malema’s growing political popularity and public admiration. Why do many Zambians, Zimbabweans, Ugandans, Congolese, Egyptians, Nigerians, Senegalese, Sudanese or Kenyans easily follow Julius Malema than most of their opposition political leaders? Why is Malema given equal political and media space to speak freely and be heard by his people, the regional and global audience in the same manner as the ruling party politicians or sitting president? How many times have we seen and heard the opposition leaders addressing the national, regional and international media in Zambia, Malawi, DR Congo, Angola, Egypt or Uganda alongside the sitting president on national events or rare moments of nationalism? Are the types of Julius Malema’s leaders only present in South Africa or can we find more of such in other African countries?
If Malema was in traditional presidential democracies like Mali, Burundi, Senegal, Gambia, Chad, Ghana, Malawi, Mozambique, Angola, Zambia, DR Congo, Kenya, Uganda, Egypt, Sudan, Rwanda, Zimbabwe, South Sudan, Nigeria, Togo, Cameroon or Algeria with the way he speaks and criticizes the ANC government in South Africa, Malema would have been either in jail for life, attending continuous political court cases for different charges or maybe dead and buried now. In these presidential democratic systems in question, Julius Malema with all his great leadership abilities, rhetorical speeches and political ideologies could have remained hardly heard or known because they could have not allowed him to reach this far using public media or political freedom to mobilize his followers and assemble anywhere and anyhow. Thus, as we applaud Malema’s speech yesterday, we need to praise South Africa’s parliamentary system more which gives equal political freedom to assemble or engage with the media to all political parties and leaders. This gesture cannot be extended to opposition leaders in most if not all presidential systems cited above across Africa as our Julius Malemas are systematically silenced and not heard.
Had Malema been in Zambia, DR Congo, Kenya, Uganda, Egypt, Sudan, Rwanda, Zimbabwe, South Sudan, Nigeria, Togo, Cameroon, Algeria, Mali, Burundi, Senegal, Gambia, Chad, Ghana, Malawi, Mozambique or Angola where there is a presidential system, Malema could not have been given any media coverage or such a political opportunity to address the world on the funeral of a great citizen like Winnie Mandela. For example, HH, the lead opposition leader in Zambia was never given a political opportunity to address the masses on the funerals of all the three late presidents-Levy Mwanawasa, FTJ Chiluba or Michael Sata apart from allowing him merely to attend and sit in the corner. In this way, the world has never seen or heard HH during such great political moments (funerals of distinguished citizens) when all national, regional and international media cameras are on him.
During national political funerals, many people have given powerful speeches and emerged renowned to fame. At Gettysburg memorial graveyard, Abraham Lincoln was touched by the evil of racial slavery and called for equal political freedom by defining democracy as “the government of the people, by the people, for the people”. As we speak, the most known and popularized definition of democracy is not one by Aristotle or David Eastern but certainly by Abraham Lincoln. In 68BC, Julius Caesar emerged to Roman public fame and political life after he delivered a public speech in honour his deceased wife Julia during her burial. This is the case of Malema in South Africa because the ANC government is caged by strong democratic institutions to champion and defend political equality and media freedom. And this would have been the case for many opposition leaders across Africa if they were given political opportunities and media coverage during funerals of their national heroes. Imagine if Malema was not on the program to honor Winnie Mandela by addressing the national, regional and global media and audience? No one could have cited him today for anything and life could have gone as usual for everyone. And that is what is happening in all presidential democratic states across Africa: opposition leaders are silenced or kept in secrecy.
What happened to Malema yesterday in South Africa can only happen in South Africa or Botswana, Seychelles and Mauritius where they have functional democracies under parliamentary systems and not in authoritarian democracies under presidential systems such as Zambia, DR Congo, Kenya, Uganda, Egypt, Sudan, Rwanda, Zimbabwe, South Sudan, Nigeria, Togo, Cameroon, Algerian or Nigeria. As we speak today, there are hundreds of great political leaders in these presidential democracies who will never be heard or known widely by the region or world because there is no way the government of the day can allow it. Across Africa, I know the Malemas are too many but they are suppressed and hidden by their respective political regimes while South Africa unveils them every day and during great political opportunities such as on the funerals of their distinguished citizens and national heroes. This is the main difference between Julius Malema and many opposition party leaders in most African countries.