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A FEW days before African National Congress Youth League (ANCYL) president Julius Malema’s planned visit to Zimbabwe, the state publicity machine swung into motion.

State newspapers and radio and television advertised Malema’s visit “to show solidarity with the people and their fight for full economic independence”.

When he finally arrived he got a royal welcome from business leaders and politicians. A motorcade was also arranged. The president’s own nephew, Patrick Zhuwawo, chauffeured Malema.

The Affirmative Action Group (AAG) leaders –– Temba Mliswa, Supa Mandiwanzira and Tafadzwa Musarara –– also welcomed him. The AAG made him an honorary member of the lobby group, which is working hand in glove with government on empowerment.

A few hours after freshening up at a local hotel, Malema emerged with a makeover. In place of his Bafana-Bafana T-shirt, he was clad in a brand new Zanu PF shirt with the face of the party’s first secretary, President Robert Mugabe.

He was then taken for a tour of the National Heroes Acre where nationalists are buried. There, Malema was taken down memory lane guided by Indigenisation and Empowerment minister Saviour Kasukuwere, the delegation’s tour guide.

This gave Kasukuwere a chance to talk about national heroes like the late Vice President Joshua Nkomo, whose PF Zapu party had strong links with the ANC.

In fact, Nkomo’s PF-Zapu had enjoyed the ANC’s exclusive support and vice-versa. This was evidenced by the joint military offensive between Umkhonto we Sizwe, the ANC’s military outfit, and the Zimbabwe People’s Revolutionary Army (Zipra) before Zimbabwe’s Independence in the Hwange campaign where the two outfits fought side by side.

The understanding was that a free Zimbabwe would provide military and any other assistance to the ANC in order to achieve freedom from the then apartheid regime of South Africa.

But something happened that both Zapu and the ANC had not anticipated.  Mugabe emerged the winner of the 1980 elections. After PF Zapu lost the election the relationship between the ANC and then Zanu PF was uneasy.

But under Thabo Mbeki’s direction a diplomatic offensive on the part of the ANC saw a new relationship being built with the new Zimbabwean government. Mugabe allowed the ANC to set up safe houses and gave political asylum to supporters and many other party functionaries.

Against such a history it was important for Zanu PF to underscore the importance of the historical links to the youths who were either unborn or too young to understand the political dynamics between the ANC and Zanu PF.

Malema was taken for a tour of a former ANC safe house. This was meant to help the two youth groups –– Zanu PF and the ANC –– bond and show Malema, who was born a year after Zimbabwe’s Independence in 1980, Zanu PF’s sacrifice during the ANC’s fight against apartheid.

From the safe house, Malema went for a rally at Stodart Hall. There, he praised Zimbabwe’s controversial land reform programme, an exercise blamed by critics for low agricultural output and subsequent food deficit.

Malema promised he would take the lessons of land reform and implement them back home.

He also had praise for the planned empowerment drive, something the youth leader had been advocating in South Africa, and nationalisation of mining companies.

His had been a lost cause in a country where critics dismiss him as an attention-seeking youth leader pursuing populist policies.

Malema has also been accused of corruptly acquiring wealth through his position after winning a number of government tenders, hence the nickname “tenderpreneur”.

Malema said: “In South Africa we are just starting, but we hear that here at home in Zimbabwe you are very far. The land question you have addressed it. We hear you are going straight to the mines; that is what we are going to start doing in South Africa. We want the mines. They have exploited our minerals for a long time, now it is our turn to also enjoy from these minerals.”

Everything seemed to be going well until he decided to educate his peers on the dangers of resorting to violence during campaigns.

According to our sister paper the Standard, the Zanu PF youths that had been very supportive and cheering him on all the way, suddenly went quiet when he told the party not to resort to violence come election time.

This was not surprising. He is known in South Africa for saying things that even the ANC sometimes deem to be politically incorrect. It was clear that Zanu PF was not going to be able to totally contain him. Zanu PF had emergency meetings last Thursday ahead of the visit to discuss how best they were going to guide him.

Back in South Africa, journalists love his departure from prepared speeches, “meandering” into other hot issues.

“You must be militant, you must be radical, you must be resolute in defence of your own organisation,” said Malema. “But militancy does not mean cutting people’s hands off, militancy does not mean violent politics, militancy means you must be vigilant, you must be on the ground, you must be in each and every corner of Zimbabwe. Once we engage in violent means of politics, we run the risk of giving imperialists the reason why they must invade Zimbabwe. If you fight people physically, you are giving them an opportunity to slaughter everybody, because theirs is to slaughter those who disagree with them.”

He had more advice for his counterparts: “We want you to hold peaceful elections because we know that under peaceful elections, Zanu PF will win. We are critical thinkers, we believe in sitting down and negotiating. We do not opt for violence. Those who think violence is a means for solutions, they cannot think, that is why they introduce violent politics in the politics of Zimbabwe.”

After the lecture to his comrades, he met with President Mugabe who urged the youth leader to stand by party principles and never to sacrifice on the altar of “political expediency.”

Malema smiled and waved goodbye.


Chris Muronzi

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