UWC’s senior politics lecturer, Keith Gottschalk, said what could be taken from last week’s march was that Malema and his leadership group had taken one initiative after the other to remain relevant.
What was also fascinating was that the youth league had single-handedly managed to organise the march.
“Prior to 1994, these marches would be organised by the ANC and groups which supported it,” said Gottschalk.
His colleague and the head of UWC’s politics department, Cherrel Africa, said it was difficult to measure the success of the march in the absence of follow-up engagement.
“In the future the ANCYL will have to look at drawing in a broader section of youth. They need to build on this,” said Africa.
More than 8 000 people marched with Malema from Johannesburg, stopping over at the Chamber of Mines and the JSE, and then marching on to Pretoria for the 60km walk.
Independent political analyst Somadoda Fikeni said the march had been a success, describing the turn-out as “reasonably big but not massive” despite earlier opposition from within the ANC, and vehement opposition from the South African Communist Party (SACP) and the Young Communist League.
He said the SACP, in opposing the march, risked isolating itself from the debate about the economy.
“There’s a failure to separate personality issues (along with the succession debate) and economic transformation,” said Fikeni.
The disciplined manner in which the march took place showed that there was merit to their argument.
“Politically it may send signals – this march had a double meaning, (because) it had the youth league flexing its muscles ahead of (the ANC’s elective conference in) Mangaung and the disciplinary case against the youth league’s leadership,” said Fikeni. Stellenbosch University’s Amanda Gouws said the march and its success had to be seen in the context of the global economy: similar protests had also drawn thousands of participants.
“The people who participated in that march were young and unemployed,” said Gouws, adding that this situation was borne out by rising inequality.
The ANCYL is demanding that sectors like mining and the banks must be nationalised, along with a call for South Africa’s government to do away with the “willing seller, willing buyer” concept as a means of speeding up land reform.
But Gouws said South Africa’s economic problems were not exclusive but related to the global economic slump.
“We need to take the march very seriously. In the context of the global economy you can’t have almost half of your (economically active population) being unemployed,” said Gouws.
ANCYL national executive member Fiona Rank, who participated in the march, described it as “quite an experience”, adding: “As the youth league, we’ve proved a point because people thought it would be a failure.”
Spirits among the marchers on Thursday were “very high” even when participants became tired. “People maintained their morale, they maintained their discipline. This shows that the youth are serious when we say that we want to reach the objective of economic freedom in our lifetimes,” said Rank.
Malema and his newly elected executive are embroiled in a disciplinary case after charges were brought against them that they had, among other things, brought the ANC into disrepute.
The University of Johannesburg’s Adam Habib said the turn-out had placed economic transformation of South Africa on the national agenda “in quite a dramatic way”.
“The Chamber of Mines have recognised it; whether they will stop their exorbitant bonuses to their executives is yet to be seen,” said Habib.