Malema, Even Nelson Mandela Eventually Renounced Socialism

JOHANNESBURG, SOUTH AFRICA IT’S NATIONAL elections again. All political parties will make their case to the electorate by Election Day. Those who have had an opportunity to govern have a big advantage, as they will remind voters of their positive record on governance. And of course their...

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IT’S NATIONAL elections again. All political parties will make their case to the electorate by Election Day. Those who have had an opportunity to govern have a big advantage, as they will remind voters of their positive record on governance. And of course their closing line will be: “There’s still more that needs to be done”. Whatever the strategy they use to attract votes, the approach, the judgment day will come, and voters will decide.

Among the political parties the citizens will judge upon is the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF), founded by Julius Malema last year. For the less-fortunate and the less-politically-informed, the party’s policies seem to address their core needs, as they propose nationalization of the key sectors of the South African economy. The party believes the ideal approach on land reform is expropriation of land without compensation.

Unfortunately, almost all of EFF’s policies are outdated and if given a chance would culminate into chaos and stagnation we see in Venezuela, North Korea, Cuba and other socialist/communist countries.


In 1992, Nelson Mandela and his African National Congress (ANC) delegation embarked on a journey to the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. They travelled there with the objective to present their economic policies to the world. According to one of the people who attended the forum, Tito Mboweni, the delegation would make it clear to global investors that as South Africa was about to make a transition to a democratic society, its economy would lean towards socialism.

The fundamentals of their economic policies incorporated, most importantly, nationalization of the key sectors of the economy. They believed this approach would help in addressing the major challenges South Africa faced at the time – dire poverty, lack of educational opportunities for the disadvantaged, high unemployment etc.

When they mingled around with delegates from various countries, they discussed their economic vision of the new South Africa; spoke about nationalization, and how the government would be the chief driver of the new democratic economy.

The Chinese and Vietnamese were baffled by their Socialist ideas. To Mandela they said, “We are currently striving to privatize state enterprises and invite private enterprise into our economies. We are Communist Party governments, and you are a leader of a national liberation movement. Why are you talking about nationalization?”, according to The New York Times.

They advised Mandela’s delegates that the idea of state ownership would not lead South Africa to a prosperous direction; that they themselves abrogated such policies.

The Chinese had pursued Communist policies before; the problem was that they never produced desirable results; until the introduction of market reforms by Deng Xiaoping in the late 70s.  

After being ruled by a very destructive character, Mao Zedong, from 1935 till his death in 1976; in 1978, the Chinese introduced market reforms that would result in unprecedented economic growth in human history. In my article titled “Why the 21st century might not belong to China”, I explain:

“…It was a programme of economic reforms called “Socialism with Chinese characteristics”.  I wonder why they used this term though. They may well have chosen, “Socialism with free market characteristics”. Increasingly their economic reforms have included elements of free-market policies. These included de-collectivization of agriculture, free trade, privatization, deregulation, etc.”

So there couldn’t be better people to advise Mandela, than the Chinese.

The original document that entailed the specifics about South Africa’s socialist economic future, to be presented at the forum was reviewed and changed before its presentation; having learned that what they were about to share with the world would frighten investors and not be beneficial to South Africa’s future.

Mandela’s views shifted. He’s being quoted saying “They changed my views altogether. I came home to say: ‘Chaps, we have to choose. We either keep nationalization and get no investment, or we modify our own attitude and get investment.”


Obviously, Mandela learned something at the forum. A conversation with the Chinese had a positive impact on his ideas about South Africa’s economy. But the likes of Julius Malema do not seem to take any advice from anyone.

Even though research findings show that nationalization and expropriation of land without compensation will be calamitous to our economy, they continue to proclaim that it will help in addressing South Africa’s economic woes.

Here’s a list of the key policies of the EFF:

  • expropriation of land without compensation;
  • nationalization of mines and other strategic sectors;
  • free education and healthcare; and
  • open and accountable government

Suppose the EFF is voted into power, the first two of the above policies would be a serious blow to South Africa’s economic progress. The results would turn this country into Zimbabwe, Venezuela, Cuba, North Korea, Vietnam and other socialist/communist republics. The second two would depend on the “how”. I do not want to get into the technicalities of how each of these policies would breed chaos. I will leave that for another day.

One of the characteristics of socialism is that it sounds good on paper, but in reality, it is unsustainable, and its eventuality is always economic chaos; evidenced by what we see in Venezuela today. It is this reason I fear that many people will easily be converted as we head to elections. Not long ago, one of my friends asked me for advice on whether he should vote for EFF. I’m yet to advise him.

Communism frightens me, for numerous reasons. In all the communist countries that I have ever heard of, in their period of communism, freedom did not exist. Human rights were abrogated, there was dictatorship, executions. I could go on counting the evils of communist countries. But I hope South Africans will make a sane decision by not voting away the future of this beautiful nation, because if they do vote for EFF, they would have done exactly that.

Nelson Mandela was convinced in Davos that markets work. But it was after he was nudged by the Chinese. Many will head to the polling stations without the basic knowledge of the consequences of EFF’s policies.  They will cross next to Malema’s name, in belief that they are doing what is best for the country. It will be the worst mistake they have ever made post 1994. PM

To God be the Glory.

Ø Youth Coordinator at Free Market Foundation South Africa

Views expressed here are my own; they have nothing to do with Free Market Foundation South Africa


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