With a cynical smile and sometimes a red beret on his head, South African politician Julius Malema thrives in pointless controversy.
He landed in Nairobi on Thursday to grace the launch of the Pan African Institute and didn’t take a breather from his trademark hollow roars. Within a second of arrival, photos emerged of him walking alongside Kiharu legislator Ndindi Nyoro – the man who once urged Kenyans to drop constitutionalism because ‘we are African and Africa is our business’.
Speaking afterward, Malema brusquely besmirched President William Ruto’s name for allegedly reneging on his campaign promises. He accused him of rolling out a red carpet complete with military honours to ‘murderer’ King Charles III. He went on and on. To those who understand the mindset of political characters who never weigh their words, we can expect even worse verbal diarrhea from the South African Economic Freedom Fighter party leader in the course of his stay. We welcome him nonetheless.
In my view, Malema’s call to reject Britons for their pre-independence ‘sins’ is propitious. He wants us to overthink the past? What are we to do to reverse history? Even if Britain was to pay top pound, is it enough to heal broken hearts of those whose kin were brutalised and killed?
It’s a badge of infamy that Malema, a former ANC youth league leader, spews hate against the UK and the internal community while turning a blind eye to the heavy price – economic and diplomatic exclusion – that could befall Africa for such tilted propositions.
Historically, there’s an absurd way that insensitive African politicians like Malema can be big-headed that ‘this is a sovereign country and outsiders should keep off.’ It is a ridiculous school of thought that African problems squally need African solutions. Such thinking belongs to the past. In my humble view, Malema and the so-called frank speakers are what African countries least need at this juncture of globalisation. Outright populism when we face grumpy issues – like high cost of living, unemployment and zero optimism – is counterproductive in a global ecosystem driven by creativity and sound ideas.
Loudmouths can project a know-all image but never offer solutions, not even the basic. Other than activism and naïve do-gooding, it would help to understand in what ways Malema has, if any, contributed to forward-looking reforms in Africa. He should be talking about the growth of human capital, social inclusivity, sustainable livelihoods and better infrastructure.
Who shall have pity upon Africa? Talk of the unfortunate colonial past, sanctions, racism, skewed loan terms and economic exclusion, let’s remind Malema that it is primitive to play the ‘us versus them’ card that ends up isolating the Global South from other regions.
Malema isn’t the first. Robert Mugabe was a champ of anti-Europe and US gibes. Paul Kagame talks of the West’s neocolonialism, accusing Europe of ‘thinking they are better than everybody.’ Ugandan strongman Yoweri Museveni plays the same card when put to task about repression.
For the record, we’re part of the global community. This can’t be smothered by bigotry. Freedom of choice and association is foundational to democracy. Kenyans chose to welcome King Charles and Malema shouldn’t gloat over it.
Malema’s call reminds us of African leaders who demand the lifting of sanction on Zimbabwe without caring about pleas for justice. Leaders can no longer feign innocence by chiding the West and get away with it.
Moreover, any African leader faulting the West should ask themselves if they have the moral authority to do so when they have failed to uphold accountability. In Swahili, they say a baboon never sees its backside.
Let appreciate that Africa needs the world much as the world needs it. To imagine that African problems can be solved exclusively by Africans is wishful thinking. That’s just the hard truth.
The writer is a communications practitioner. X: @markoloo
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