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Drinking with Juju

by Keitu Reid / 27.07.2011

Getting an interview with Julius Malema these days is damn near impossible, especially now that he’s gone to ground amongst the latest revelations about where he gets all that swag from. Just ask Floyd Shivambu. So what’s a relevant youth culture magazine like Mahala to do? Make one up… My fantasy talk with Julius goes down at the bar at the Wall Street Cigar Lounge over looking the new CBD. He sips golden single malt whisky while I’m on warm red wine. We watch Sandton rush hour through the windows.

“South Africa’s come a long way,” he says. “But not far enough.”
Before my lack of political sophistication, he shakes his head.
“Keitu! How come you don’t know these things?”
“Jay,” I’d say, “I prefer to live in my head where it’s safer.”
“I know they say I am the devil,” Julius continues, “but it’s my day off today.”
“I may not know about politics but I can see people’s faces. How they’re feeling. I see unhappiness behind that Mzansi smile of yours Juju. People don’t understand why we have a great constitution and developmental policies but the implementation is so poor.”

He remains quiet.

“Julius let me give you some examples. Take BEE. It promised equality and fairness. It was supposed to be a way for all to share in this nation’s wealth. This has not happened. Only a few have benefited. Big corporations just factor BEE non-compliancy fines into their operating budgets. Is this why you’re into nationalisation? Because you saw freedom and equality is empty without anything to show for it?”

“Right,” he nods and flags the waiter for another drink.

“What about Outcome Based Education? OBE was supposed to replace the horrors of Bantu Education with a more cognitive and representitve democratic education. But the quality of education is worsening daily. It has never been so low. Schools are under-resourced and teachers need training and better pay. We have progressive laws and enshrined rights for gays and lesbians but townships aren’t safe for them and the government remains silent and sends Qwelane to Uganda!”

He stares into his glass.

“So when you speak about nationalising the mines, I worry. Has this worked in other countries?”

He smiles.

“My instinct is to support you on redistributing land.” I tell him. “You’re right in saying we have won freedom but the most critical battle is economic power. But how will the policy of redistribution be implemented? Will the process be equitable or will it become another Zimbabwe? How will the State convert national control of mineral wealth into something beneficial for all South Africans? And what about implementation? Will the government be able to run these mines better than the private sector? What good is it to any of us being an ideal country on paper and so poor in practice?”

I calm myself with a good sip of wine.

“You asking me?” He says.

“Yes you.” I say. “You’re a smart guy. You’re the one calling for these policies, but can you walk the talk? Who really needs woodwork anyway? You’re brave man. I admire you. But you must promise these policies will be implemented to improve the lives of all South Africans. Not just you and your circle.”

He turns away after our eyes meet.

“Don’t change things for revenge, or out of anger, or simply to enrich yourself.” I urge. “Change them because it’s the right thing to do. For the good of all. A better life for all. We desperatley need economic equality in our country. Are you the man to do it? If you are, then do it right. When land is redistributed – don’t do it violently or maliciously. Do it right. So many desperate impressionable kids follow your lead. If you don’t do it right we will be another failed African country. If it is to be done, we must do it with a great deal of consideration, humility and responsibility. The land is everything. Can you imagine if you achieve this?”

I see nourished, educated children radiant with happiness and fertile farms with fat juicy fruit. Our people well fed. Effective public transport next. A dream of safe streets.

“I hear you.” Julius says with a wink. His hand on mine.

*Illustration © Alastair Laird.

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