Julius Malema

Malema calls on SA expats to “come help and build a better country”

Julius Malema has said some interesting things on his “speaking tour of the UK”.

Julius Malema

Julius Malema, leader of the of the Economic Freedom Fighters, took London by storm this week with a clear message to investors: we want you to invest in South Africa but the only way you can help stabilise the country and run a successful business is to extend shareholder schemes to your workforce.

He said that if investors wanted their investments to be stable and productive they should issue shares to the workers rather than enter into corrupt relationships with politically-connected individuals.

He said that black economic empowerment had “institutionalised corruption” and was at the heart of the country’s growing economic problems.

“So-called Broad-Based Black Economic Empowerment is a corrupt relationship between the business community and politically-connected people in the ruling African National Congress (ANC) who then offer protection to those who have empowered them,” Malema said.

Malema denied that the EFF was either anti-white or anti-business. He said the EFF would not allow white supremacy to be defended.

“Madiba (Mandela) said: Forgive. And we were quick to forgive. Some of our people even sit on boards with the policemen that tortured them,” he said.

He said South Africa had come from a difficult past.

“We are not perpetuating racial divisions. We are fighting for the rights of black people and we are unashamed in doing that,” he said.

Malema appealed to South Africans living and working abroad to “come home” and help build the country.

“Come back and help build a better country,” he said. ”We need your experience and expertise…come and share it with us without arrogance,” he said.

Malema said the vast majority of South Africans had been excluded from the benefits which a strong private sector brought.

But he said business leaders were beginning to realise that the only enduring protection they could have was through the relationship with their workforce.

He said the ANC government was acting “like a headless chicken”. It had capitulated to student demands for scrapping the increase in tuition fees without addressing the issue of how to make education available to all.

Malema addressed a small group of top British and US investors in South Africa at a lunch hosted by Rob Hersov, founder and chairman of Invest Africa, on Tuesday and on Wednesday Malema travelled to Oxford to deliver an address at the Student Union at Oxford University where the son of Dali Mpofu, chair of the EFF, is a student.

Malema was due today (Friday) to address the prestigious Royal Institute of International Affairs (Chatham House), Britain’s leading policy think-tank.

British investors expressed surprise at Malema’s relatively pragmatic approach towards business despite his commitment to nationalise banks and land if the EFF won power in an election.

Malema said that EFF was interested only in peaceful change through the ballot box and would under no circumstances enter into coalitions with the ruling ANC at any level of government.

“If we enter into coalitions it will be with opposition parties,“ he said, adding that a central goal of the EFF was to break the “arrogance of the ANC”.

Speaking yesterday at a meeting of the South African Chamber of Commerce in the UK, hosted by the global accounting firm Deloitte, Malema said that workers would not be striking if they had a share in the business and received dividends. Instead they would then have a vested interest in the success of the business.

The robust question-and-answer session was chaired by Debbie Thomas, Partner and Head of Africa Services Group at Deloitte LLP. Anglo American and Investec were represented at yesterday’s meeting.

Malema said that some companies, such as Lonmin, had not only neglected their work force but had also shifted their profits to off-shore tax havens.

During question time, a senior south African executive said that while he agreed with much of what Malema had said about worker shareholder schemes, he appealed to him not to be so “radical” and to scare people but rather to adopt a softer approach.

The executive said a partnership between capital and business was possible but needed to be discussed in a calmer atmosphere.

Malema said it could no longer “be business as usual”. The people are saying: ‘You cannot work on our land and we don’t benefit.’

Malema said if business put buying power in the hands of the workers, the country would grow and business would prosper.

He said a minimum wage had not collapsed the economies of Germany or Brazil and a R4500 (GBP 200) minimum wage would not collapse the South African economy.


John Battersby is a director of the South African Chamber of Commerce in the UK, author, journalist and an independent consultant.