AFRICAN National Congress (ANC) youth president Julius Malema is full of riddles and his Easter visit to Zimbabwe had his Zanu PF hosts cheering him on at one moment and then at another left them open-mouthed in surprise.
Malema’s visit was in a sense useful as there were many political and economic issues under the spotlight and observers sought signals on how the youths in ANC appreciated them, and maybe predict future policies.
When addressing his maiden rally in the country, Malema, showing his roots as a product of a nationalistic liberation movement, predictably ventured into the obvious issues of sovereignty, militancy, radicalism, defending the “gains” of independence and empowerment.
If his Zanu PF hosts expected a glossy appraisal of their track record, they were shocked when Malema said they could still be militant and radical without cutting off people’s hands.
His message was clear, there is no need to maim, kill and amputate and say one is defending their position.
Zanu PF youths, the audience to this message, may have felt uncomfortable with this as they would have expected their fellow comrade, for whom they had sung the banned song ‘Shoot the Boer’ to preach killing.
Malema was also spot on when he said the proposed economic empowerment should not be used as an opportunity to further enrich the fat cats.
For his fellow comrades, used to public policies for individual benefit, Malema was out of sync.
These are people who have benefited from “land reform” and various quasi fiscal activities which were implemented by the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe between 2004 and 2008 and they believe it is a right to individually benefit from such policies.
The poor, Malema may have observed, have continuously been used as pawns and the grand masters were once again preparing to move them around the indigenisation chessboard.
This is when Malema should have declared victory and gone back home.
However, as controversial as he is, the ANC youth president steered into the politics of succession in Zanu PF and by extension the country, saying President Robert Mugabe should not go.
“In South Africa we had Oliver Tambo who served for 30 years as ANC leader without being challenged,” Malema said.
In November 2008 Malema was saying: “He (Mugabe) must step down. We need a new president in Zimbabwe. Zanu PF is not the problem, the problem is the old man who is refusing to leave power.”
What is Malema saying? At one time Mugabe should not go and at another he should go. This would suggest policy confusion!
Comparing Mugabe’s stay in power to that of Tambo is like comparing apples and oranges, arguing that both are round fruits.
Tambo was ANC leader in exile at a time when they were fighting for liberation and the other leaders such as Nelson Mandela were on Robben Island.
At that time, the ANC was preoccupied by strategic issues and leadership change was not important and if Tambo had shown signs of faltering in his leadership definitely he would have been challenged.
One also has to see how there was massive lobbying for positions as soon as the ANC was unbanned and transformed into an opposition political party after 1990.
In Zimbabwe, Mugabe will next week mark 30 years as the leader of the country and in preparing a balance sheet of his stay in power, there is more debit than credit.
Mugabe, Malema should understand, is now a liability in terms of strategy and as he was saying less than two years ago, he is the problem. Even Zanu PF knows the leader is a liability and that is why in 2008 more votes went to the party than to the president.
Malema should have taken time to reflect and acknowledge that comparing Tambo’s stay at the top of ANC is in no way similar to Mugabe’s stay in power.
Instead, he should have seen the link between the violence he condemned when he addressed Zanu PF youths, and the desire to stay in power at any cost by the leaders of the party.
Why would Malema want a leader in Zimbabwe to stay in power when he spearheaded the recalling of then president Thabo Mbeki after Judge Chris Nicholson ruled that there was political interference in the Jacob Zuma case?
Why would Malema, who also campaigned against Mbeki’s attempt to have a third term as ANC president, want Mugabe to continue in Zimbabwe 30 years after?
It may be an indulgent approach to Zimbabwe’s domestic politics or a failure to appreciate the situation in the country. Whatever the case, the Malema visit has simply widened the political divide.