Is Julius Malema Killmonger

By Mighti Jamie
/// Posted March 1, 2018


Black Panther .

Is Julius Malema Killmonger?

First things first- WAKANDA FOREVER!!

There is no question that Black Panther is the biggest movie of the year. It is definitely one of the most impactful art works for the black world. The quality of storytelling and character development has made this movie transcend the norm. It has transcended the bounds of pure entertainment and allowed people to delve into deep political commentary. One of the most contentious political issues it explores is the dichotomy of ideology in how to conduct the black revolution. It does this through the political ideologies adopted by the two main rivals T'Challa and Killmonger. I think these two characters can be used to reflect on the two differing approaches taken by the two main leaders of the opposition in South Africa.

Killmonger is from the very onset focused on the wrongs of slavery, colonialism and apartheid. When we first meet him as an adult, he is in an African museum exhibit having a conversation with the British guide talking about African artefacts,

"how do you think your ancestors got these? You think they paid a fair price for it? Or did they take it like they did everything else".

Killmonger acutely identifies with the global black oppressed community. He also identifies that the Wakandan elite have forgotten him and the black poor of the world . He is focused on improving their lived experiences of poverty and oppression.

Killmonger is motivated by righting these wrongs and Wakandan technology is his strategic solution. He wants to arm the oppressed of the world to rise up against the system which is a white supremacist global order. He wants to share the spoils of Wakanda with people of colour around the world.

To put it in technical political language, Killmonger is akin to:

1. a Pan Africanist;

2. an African Nationalist; and

3. His social justice aims are transformative

This combination of political ideologies was popularised by Marcus Garvey who was Jamaican but found his notoriety in America. Garvey urged a return to Africa, contending that black people should rely upon their own unity and create their own means of employment. Malcolm X continued this path for a new generation and rose to fame with a militancy that was not seen in the civil rights leaders of the time. Malcolm X demanded unity and self-determination for black people, whose struggle he viewed in the context of oppressed people all over the world. Malcolm believed in the power of black solidarity. He travelled frequently to African countries and found lots of inspiration from the work that was being done on the continent. He undoubtedly is considered the spiritual and ideological father of the Black Panther movement which was led by Huey P Newton.

At a personal level Killmonger is an angry man, his rage is apparent when the issue of his politics emerges. While his anger is justified because the conditions of black people around the world and what was done to them are no laughing matter , this anger also brings out the worst in him. He takes a dictatorial path to executing his emancipation, something that we have seen going wrong in many African countries. Super powers or not, Africa has been held back by the likes of Mugabe who thought that only they could emancipate the people, only they were the real custodians of the revolution.

Julius Malema has many similarities with Killmonger. He is a man who has a clarity of focus on the return of the land to the dispossessed black people of South Africa and he believes this must be done without compensation. Malema has rallied against white monopoly capital since his ANC youth league days.  He believes that nationalisation of key sectors of the economy, will alleviate the nefarious impact of white monopoly capital. That singularity of focus is a commonality he shares with Killmonger. A desire to restore the black man to a position of dignity and prosperity informs Malema’s politics. The EFF has also shown an awareness and a desire to transcend the borders of South Africa. They refer to themselves as a revolutionary African organisation. If anyone can be said to carry the mantle of Marcus Garvey, Malcolm X and Killmonger in South Africa, that man is Julius Malema.

  1. Julius is a Pan Africanist;
  2. Julius is an African Nationalist;  and
  3. Julius Malema’s social justice aims are transformative because he is keen on upending the current order and creating a new one wherein the power lies with the people. Black People. 

Julius Malema is also a man who can be described as having a short fuse. Who can forget his infamous outburst -  “bloody agent, bastard, this is a revolutionary house.” Or in more recent times his outburst at Jacob Zuma in parliament when Zuma was trying to dishonestly explain why he would not sue the press for lying about him. Zuma said he didn’t even bother to sue Malema who said many things about him, at which point Malema angrily jumped up and lashed out urging Zuma to sue him:

“You can sue me…This is not your house , this is parliament, don’t talk like this is your house”.

There are other examples, but these should suffice. Julius Malema may not have hundreds of notches on his skin to exhibit his kills, but he has been considered an angry firebrand since his days as a young student in COSAS.  In one instance he is seen shouting at Jackson Mthembu from the back of a conference venue. In the video, Jackson consistently asks the people at the back who are singing to sit down, this happens during a night vigil. Julius Malema leads this group of young disrupters who angrily voice their discontent. Julius has several political kills in his political career.

Julius Malema is Killmonger, who is T’Challa?

T'Challa is a child of privilege, a Harvard graduate (this is from the comics) who is only focused on maintaining his power and the way of life of his people. Every-time he flies into the kingdom of Wakanda he sees the abject poverty of the world. Having studied in America he would be aware of the challenges of the black community there: racial profiling; unfair incarceration; discrimination and lack of delivery in their communities. He would know about Garvey, W.E.B Du Bois, Malcolm X and Huey P Newton. It seems however that he is not interested in using his vast power to emancipate the world. We know from the comics this is why Nakia broke up with him in the first place (he wasn’t just freezing for nothing). When they reunite she is saving the Nigerian girls from Boko Haram.

Imagine that, you have the power to bring back all the girls, to end all the various forms of terror in Africa but you choose to sit them out. You could have stopped genocide in Rwanda when no one wanted to intervene but you sat it out. T'Challa is convinced for most of the movie that his duty is primarily to his country and he abandons responsibility for the rest of the people of Africa, the rest of the global black community until he is confronted.

Even at the end of the movie T'Challa makes mild gestures of reform, in contrast to what Killmonger envisioned. Using the generally accepted academic standards in social justice studies, T’Challa is not adopting a transformative approach. Nancy Fraser who writes on the distinction between affirmative and transformative approaches to social redress would classify this as an inclusive approach. The UN may grant T'Challa permission to help, but Wakanda would still not have a seat in the security council.  This intervention would thus fall in the category of inclusive approaches. The purpose of a transformative approach is to restructure the system, not necessarily to get more of the oppressed access to its benefits. So if the problem is that white global supremacist structures and capital have oppressed black people, the solution would be to dismantle those systemic structures of subjugation. T’Challa does not do this, or seem to pursue this.

To put it in technical political terms T'Challa:

1. is a neoliberal;

2. T'Challa's social justice politics are inclusive;

3. T’Challa wants to maintain the status quo. He likes things the way they are, at the end of the movie he responds to the critique made by Nakia and Killmonger by giving some humanitarian aid to the poor of Harlem and asking the UN for a bigger role. This is far removed from the revolution that was sought by Killmonger. T’Challa chooses assimilation over separation.

Mmusi Maimane is T’Challa.

He is a man whose politics is diametrically opposed to Julius Malema’s. As the leader of a neo liberal political party, the ideologies he espouses have been observed to be quite harmful to the global oppressed black community. Here is a comprehensive piece discussing the harms of neoliberalism.

Here is another

Mmusi is also interested in maintaining the status quo on critical issues. In the recent land debate, his party was opposed to land appropriation by the state without compensation to solve dispossession. He was in favour of the Western Cape model of redistribution. The Western Cape remains one of the most evident examples of racialized spatial planning, particularly in the farming lands and in the urban areas. White suburbia in the Western Cape is as a result of centuries of oppressive town planning. To be happy with the way of doing things currently is to accept all these injustices of spatial deprivation. It is a very T’Challa thing to do, ignore something so evident to anyone who has spent a second in the Western Cape. Focus only on the comfortable issues, ones that won’t challenge the core of how things are done in your kingdom. Respect the ancestors, Helen Zille and James Selfe.

While T’Challa may be the hero in the movies and while Killmonger is characterised in a way that make his ideas seem hasty and over reactions, in the eyes of many in the audience those ideas had a resonance. In the eyes of many in the cast too. What is interesting to note is that in a recent interview, Chadwick Boseman identifies T’Challa as the enemy.

“I actually am the enemy,” he says during a discussion with cast mate Lupita Nyong’o and Marvel comics writer and journalist Ta-Nehisi Coates at Harlem’s Apollo Theatre on Tuesday. (The comments were transcribed and reported by The Atlantic and Rolling Stone.) “It’s the enemy I’ve always known. It’s power. It’s having privilege.”

He characterizes T’Challa as

“born with a vibranium spoon in my mouth.”

So as an African living in this democratic dystopia, who is your champion. Real world Killmonger or real world T’Challa?





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