This article was first published on City Press on
23 February 2022
Julius Malema’s xenophobic quest for ‘blood votes’
Self-commissioned ‘commander-in-chief’ of the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF), Julius Malema, is on a fatal trajectory of catastrophic populist human and property rights violations. It is bizarre to posit a theory of South Africa’s high unemployment rate being a result of Zimbabwean immigrants. Conducive policies and investor confidence create employment. Moreover, even where economies teem with jobs, local populations require appropriate skills and mindsets to entice employers.
Malema, Herman Mashaba, and others who are obsessed with African immigrants are barking up the wrong tree. Insidious theories based on parochial narratives achieve nothing for millions of black South Africans deserving of good, safe jobs, in a free market environment.
Empirical evidence exists of immigrants being vital in the development matrix of any country. The global economic juggernaut, the United States of America, boasts an almost 15% immigrant population. The United Kingdom, Germany, Russia, and Saudi Arabia are among the world’s elite countries tolerating huge immigrant populations. Bad ANC economic policies and corrupt public finance practices – not African immigrants – impoverish black South Africans.
Claiming that most South Africans cannot secure jobs due to an influx of Zimbabweans betrays limited knowledge of global and regional politics. Malema needs a simple lesson in European and African history. Adolf Hitler’s superficial stardom, and his inevitable demise, were grounded on hatred of those deemed foreign, specifically Jews.
This attitude always ends up badly; in the case of Hitler, with one of the world’s greatest genocides resulting in the death of millions of innocent Jews. As fate would have it, some of the best minds emigrated from Germany to the United States in that era. Case in point being aerospace engineer Wernher von Braun whose intellect propelled America’s space technology. His work with American Jewish engineer Abraham Silverstein makes it impossible to quantify the space technology contribution to human advancement.
One of the richest spots on this planet, the United Arab Emirates, boasts an almost 90% immigrant population. Its commercial capital – Dubai – is a global centre of trade and tourism. Were Malema to have a ‘restaurant audit’ in that city, he may not encounter a single Emirati native employed in its multi-billion-dollar tourism industry. And I am sure he, his and the ANC’s acolytes have one time or another embarked on shopping frolics to that blissful haven of immigrant workers.
Let me simplify this lesson for the benefit of Malema and his xenophobic sympathisers.
South Africa and Zimbabwe’s inextricable historical links date back to the 19th century when Zulu rebel general Mzilikazi ka Matshobane evaded Shaka Zulu’s wrath by emigrating northwards to present-day Bulawayo. The Matabele kingdom, though disruptive to local Shona chieftainships, inherited strong Zulu militant ethics.
This is why billionaire coloniser Cecil John Rhodes used Zulu tradition expert cleric Robert Moffat as chief negotiator for mining concessions. It might not mean much to Malema, but students of economic history appreciate why Rhodesia was key in supplying its neighbour with critical mineral and human resources. From 1890 to now, the bad of xenophobia pales in significance compared to the good that generations upon generations of Zimbabweans have done for South Africa.
I therefore can only conclude that Malema’s xenophobic tantrums are exhibitionist politicking dicing with people’s lives. With parliamentary elections a mere two years away, one can understand why he is ratcheting anti-immigrant euphoria. The Democratic Alliance and ANC have dominated South African politics for two decades, and EFF believes 2024 gives them a chance given the ANC’s perennial policy blunders.
However, Malema neither cares to analyse causes of poverty in South Africa, nor has he done a skills audit on why hotels prefer hiring Zimbabweans. Above all, he does not know that both South Africa and Zimbabwe are members of the borderless global village. At a time when the African Union pushes for inter-African trade, Malema, like a clueless predator, bites at everything on its path, preying on defenceless Zimbabweans and accusing them of all manner of misdemeanours.
At the height of South Africa’s liberation struggle, Zimbabwe, like all other Frontline States, was brutalised by the South African Defence Force. Dozens of Zimbabweans died in bombs blasts as building were flattened. Thousands of black South Africans took refuge in, as more tracked northwards via, Zimbabwe
Malema’s xenophobic theatrics will ultimately contribute to getting many Zimbabweans murdered, most who are not professional white-collar jobbers but ordinary citizens living in ordinary South African communities. Therefore, which poor people do the EFF and Julius Malema fight for? If ZANU-PF can kill for votes in Zimbabwe’s elections, how different is the EFF’s deadly xenophobic ‘blood votes’ campaign?
To put it in its correct perspective, there are millions of immigrants in South Africa from hundreds of different countries. Most come with highly scarce professions that contribute to South Africa’s economic growth. You find these in the education, health, energy, and logistics sectors. Moreover, even waiters, gardeners, security guards, and street cleaners contribute to gross domestic product. UN boss António Guterres warns that immigrants “continue to face widespread stigmatization, inequalities, xenophobia, and racism.”
Julius Malema needs to heed this advice to sanitise his political career.