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Looking at Unrest in South Africa; Interview with Interfaith Activist Eboo Patel

Aired September 11, 2012 - 15:30:00   ET


CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN HOST: Good evening, everyone, and welcome to the program. I'm Christiane Amanpour.

Tonight, 18 years after apartheid, the hopes and dreams of that Rainbow Nation South Africa seem to be coming apart at the seams. Mounting anger at the enrichment of the small elite at the expense of the majority, especially those who extract South Africa's most precious minerals. That has exploded into the violent miners' strike now in its fifth week.

With the government of Jacob Zuma largely absent on the issue, activists and some say rabble-rousing opponent Julius Malema calls for a national mining strike. And there are reports of striking miners threatening to kill those who do show up for work.

The situation has placed a harsh light on the economic inequality that plagues South Africa. The World Bank says that South Africa is one of the world's worst offenders, second only to the inequality that's found in Namibia.

Eighteen years after apartheid, the miners, who are virtually all black, are paid very little -- in American dollars, about 400 a month. And they continue to live in squalor, often without running water, without electricity and without proper toilets.

Listen to what one miner told CNN's Nkepile Mabuse.


"It seems as if the government has forgotten about us," he says, "and is siding with the mining companies. Black people in South Africa are being used like toilet paper and then flushed."



AMANPOUR (voice-over): The situation among the miners descend into chaos back on August 16th, when 34 striking mine workers were killed by police at a platinum mine near Marikana in South Africa. It became the most violent confrontation between police and civilians since the end of apartheid, and images of armed officers firing into the crowd played repeatedly across the country.


AMANPOUR: I'll speak to Julius Malema and a leader of one of the biggest mining companies in just a moment. But first, here's a look at what's coming up later in the program.



AMANPOUR (voice-over): Eleven years after 9/11, as a new World Trade Center rises from the ashes, one man speaks of building more than just a skyscraper.

EBOO PATEL, AUTHOR: If I believe in a world where you're not going to be pushed around because of your religion, then I have to help build that world.

AMANPOUR (voice-over): And a desperate message from one of the Twin Towers, one of thousands of bits of lost paper, now imagine a world where it finds its way home.


AMANPOUR: We'll get to that in a bit, but first, Julius Malema, a harsh critic of the Zuma government, has become the face of this crisis, stepping into the leadership void that's been left by the president and his men, calling for a national strike in all of South Africa's mines.

Malema was leader of the ANC's youth wing before being expelled, for fomenting division within the party. He's now facing corruption charges related to the misuse of party funds while he was in office, and he joins me right now.

Julius Malema, you are a very controversial figure, and yet you've gone and inserted yourself into a really violent and difficult situation right now.

Why have done that? What do you think you can achieve?

JULIUS MALEMA, FORMER YOUTH LEADER, AFRICAN NATIONAL CONGRESS: No, let's correct one thing here. I'm not facing any corruption charges from any institution --


AMANPOUR: There are -- there's an investigation into --

MALEMA: -- (inaudible).

AMANPOUR: -- there's an investigation into some fraud and allegations of misappropriation.

MALEMA: Yes, yes.

AMANPOUR: So my question is --

MALEMA: Yes. So if you say I'm facing charges, it's (inaudible) charged already. (Inaudible) --

AMANPOUR: No, no --

MALEMA: -- not correct.

AMANPOUR: I said you're -- there's an investigation and they're looking into it.


AMANPOUR: Could you please tell me what you're doing, inserting your very controversial self into what's going on in South Africa at the mines right now? What do you think you will achieve?

MALEMA: The ANC Youth League is, their congress last year in June, (inaudible) is doing. And it led economic freedom in our lifetime and called for nationalization of mines and the wealth of the country to be shared amongst all the people living in this country.

And therefore, (inaudible) again over the leadership of that struggle to ensure that the mineral resources of this country benefit the people of this country, particularly the workers who are working very hard in very risky conditions underground, trying to take out this, you know, precious minerals.

AMANPOUR: Mr. Malema, you say you've taken over the leadership of this struggle and this crisis, but you've been expelled from the ANC. I know you're wearing the outfit and the logos. But by what right do you take over the leadership of this?

MALEMA: We remain the leadership of the youth movement of the ANC. The youth league of the ANC said we will remain leaders until 2014, and will continue to play that role to ensure that the working class in South Africa does not become a leaderless because those who were charged with such responsibility have taken leave from discharging (inaudible) responsibility.

AMANPOUR: Mr. Malema, clearly you are disregarding, then, your expulsion from the youth wing of the ANC and you're continuing. But my question to you was, what is it that you're saying to them today, to the miners?

We have reports that you have told people to strike every five days -- rather for five days every month until they get their wage demands. Are you telling people to go back to work and only strike five days a month? What are you saying exactly?

MALEMA: No, no, what we are saying is that these strikes that happen in different mines, they need to be coordinated and the national program should be rolled out wherein every month for a week, working days, there will be, you know, strikes, demanding a better salaries for the workers, demanding that the mineral resources of this country be nationalized and we are going to be announcing, you know, the day of action and subsequently that day of action will be those five days until the owners of the mills of production are ready to sit down with economic freedom fighters to buy gain (ph) the way forward.

AMANPOUR: What is it that you -- I mean, I know that the 12,500 grand threshold that the miners are demanding, but here's another issue. Some of these miners want to go back to work. Many of them are destitute and they need to put food on the table and look after their families. And some of these striking miners are threatening violence and even threatening to kill those who go back to work.

Is that something you condone?

MALEMA: What we have discovered is the violence and they -- we have told the workers that we should believe the power of persuasion and convince those who are going to work that they, too, stand to benefit out of this evolution and therefore it is not necessary, you know, to sell out. And that we should continuously do so until we've got 100 percent support of the workers.

And what (inaudible) of the workers in the mines. And we'll be going into different sectors of our economy and there will be going to different sectors of our workforce in South Africa, that tomorrow, here in South Africa, we'll be speaking to the armed forces, soldiers from the South African national (ph) defense force.

We have also invited us who have got problems so we want to consolidate all workers, including the unemployed, to come together and to demand what rightfully belongs to them, because we are (inaudible) away with saying enough is enough. We need to share in the country's wealth.

AMANPOUR: Julius Malema, do you believe that stoking racial tensions in a way of getting what you believe the workers are entitled to? Why did you go there and sing that song again today and yesterday that got you into trouble in the first place, kill the Boers?

MALEMA: That is not the song that got me into trouble --

AMANPOUR: But in any event, why did you do it?

MALEMA: -- I don't think people know the difference.

No, I didn't sing the song that says kill the Boer today. So --

AMANPOUR: What did you say?

MALEMA: (Inaudible) --

AMANPOUR: We have you on tape.

MALEMA: -- saying in Pfennig (ph), in Zulu, you can listen to the tape and get a proper interpreters, because those who are interpreting for you are actually misleading you and you must fire them.

AMANPOUR: So what were you saying?

MALEMA: I sang two songs today. One is that we joy (ph). The other one was the one that says, (inaudible) being shot or arrested or being killed while soldiering on with the struggle for economic freedom.

AMANPOUR: Let me just play you this --

MALEMA: And then the other one --

AMANPOUR: -- let me just play this --

MALEMA: -- where in the past --

AMANPOUR: Let me play you the clips.



MALEMA: (Inaudible).


AMANPOUR: What is that, then, because we had reports that you were, again, using those words in that song.

MALEMA: That song says kill the Boer, kill the farmer. Listen to the -- to the -- to the words in that song. Kill the Boer, kill the farmer. That's what I'm saying in the song, so I don't know where you're getting what you are saying.

AMANPOUR: Might you have changed those words?

MALEMA: Come again?

AMANPOUR: The original song that you were told basically told off for using was "Kill the Boer."

MALEMA: No. This was not the song before the court. This song was sang by the former firebrand president of the Youth League, Peter Mokaba. It used to have the words, "kill the Boer, kill the farmer" in it. And we changed those words into (inaudible) promoting (inaudible) through (inaudible). That's why we talking about the kids (ph) in the song. And then one before the court --

AMANPOUR: All right.

MALEMA: -- was a different song and was never sang anyway. Since the proceedings of the court and since their finding by the judge and the appeal, we are awaiting the appeal on the other song.

AMANPOUR: Julius Malema, thank you very much for joining us.

MALEMA: Thank you very much.

AMANPOUR: Next we are going to turn to Mamphela Ramphele, who is on the board of one of the leading mines. She's joining us from Budapest, Hungary.

You just heard what Julius Malema said. Thank you for joining us, by the way. What do you say to the idea of these strikes every -- five-day strikes every month, to the idea of nationalizing the mines? What will that do?

MAMPHELA RAMPHELE, FORMER ANTI-APARTHEID ACTIVIST: I think we need to look at what is best in the country, in a broader context. We all want Mr. Malema (inaudible). (Inaudible) that the events of Marikana have held (inaudible) to the fate of South Africa.

We came into our freedom in 1994. It's a very clear vision of (inaudible) society (inaudible) more equal, more just, with (inaudible) of all people. And what happened over the last few weeks has shown just how we have (inaudible) including (inaudible). We have all failed (ph) to step up to the plate and be the leader but we take South Africa to that dream we had.

AMANPOUR: So (inaudible) --


RAMPHELE: -- (inaudible) that (inaudible).

AMANPOUR: So, Dr. Ramphele, you speak very frankly about how you have all failed to do this.

Doesn't this leave a very sort of willing group of people to follow leaders like Julius Malema, who you and the rest of the government say are rabble rousers and not legitimate leaders? I mean, he's been expelled from the ANC Youth wing and from the ANC. And yet he's got a lot of followers out there on the ground.

RAMPHELE: Yes, the issue of people following someone (inaudible) is an indication of the failure of leadership. And the failure of leadership on the part of the mining industry, which has continued to be the (inaudible) that can be made for the last (inaudible).

The mining charter which was supposed to be a framework for the transformation of the industry to become a more human rights-based and a more humane (inaudible) has not actually (inaudible).

We are focused too much on a few (inaudible) people owning shares in the mining industry rather than taking care of educating (inaudible), housing, training and looking after the welfare and the well-being of (inaudible).

AMANPOUR: Dr. Ramphele, how do you think this is going to end, finally? How do you think this crisis is going to end?

RAMPHELE: (Inaudible) going to end with the government rises to (inaudible) of being a good (inaudible) rather than a player and a regulator at the same time from the government owes too many indirect shares whatever.

Secondly, the industry which means (inaudible) to lead out of this (inaudible) into a more sustainable (inaudible). The mine workers' union must also step up to the plate and be the leader of the workers instead of leaving the ground to people who have come in because they see a gap.

And also (inaudible) in South Africa must hold the government accountable for remilitarizing (ph) the police. We cannot have police shooting people because they are striking.

AMANPOUR: And on that note -- on that note --

RAMPHELE: (Inaudible).

AMANPOUR: Dr. Ramphele, thank you so much for joining us. Thank you for making the effort from Budapest, Hungary.

And we will be right back.



AMANPOUR: Welcome back to the program and now we turn to Egypt, where over the past few hours a protest has erupted at the U.S. embassy in Cairo. Protesters scaled the walls and tore down the American flag, replacing it instead with a black one bearing Islamic writing.

What sparked the demonstration is not entirely clear. Our CNN producer on the ground says that protesters were angry about the production of an American film, they say, that insults the Prophet Mohammed.

Other protesters were less specific, chanting anti-American slogans and complaining about U.S. policy. It's unknown whether the timing of the protest had any meaning, but it may be no coincidence that the demonstration erupted on the 11th anniversary of 9/11. As I say, we still don't know about that film, if there is any film, but we're going to continue to look into that.

But right now, Eboo Patel founded a non-profit organization to promote interfaith cooperation here in the United States and around the world. He served as an interfaith adviser to President Obama and he's author of several books, including "Sacred Ground: Pluralism, Prejudice and the Promise of America."


PATEL: Thank you for having me on to talk about the book.

AMANPOUR: We did not know that there was going to be a protest in Egypt when we invited you, but it is 9/11. It's the 11th anniversary of 9/11, and there have been indicators all over the United States of such spite and prejudice against Muslims. Tell me some of the worrying trends that you've seen.

PATEL: So part of this is as a father of two children. I'm worried for my kids. My mom called me during the madness around the Ground Zero mosque discourse a couple of years ago, and said that I should change my kids' names because they sounded too Muslim.

I thought to myself, you know, we live in a country in which all names are American names. And my Muslim kids, them being better Muslims makes them better Americans. And that's the spirit in America that I want to help revitalize.

AMANPOUR: I know you do, but there have been some spikes (ph) that probably you find troubling, hate crimes have spiked by about 50 percent in 2010 when you were mentioning. There's been unprecedented violence this year against U.S. Islamic centers in the month of Ramadan and so on and so on.

I asked you once a couple of years ago how this could be going on and what impact therefore had your work had in trying to promote interfaith. And it caused you some soul-searching --


PATEL: That's right. It's a chapter in the middle of this book, actually. So there were two realizations that came out of that conversation that we had in 2010. One is that in a strange way, it's almost better when prejudice is out in the open rather than hidden, because then you don't have to convince people that that's a problem.

And in the summer of 2010, anti-Muslim prejudice was right there out in the open. And part of what that meant is so many righteous Americans came to the support of Muslims. Jewish comedians like Jon Stewart. The Jewish mayor of New York, Michael Bloomberg, was probably the strongest national supporter of Cordoba House (ph) and that's really inspiring.

AMANPOUR: That was the so-called not mosque, not near Ground Zero --

PATEL: That's right. The Muslim YMCA.

AMANPOUR: Exactly. Now in your book, you discussed, because other people have -- also asked you, for instance, (inaudible) raise funds from, what is the impact of your work, how do you measure it? And you've come up with this science of interfaith cooperation, the idea of social capital and bridges.

Tell me about what that means.

PATEL: So it's -- the science of interfaith cooperation is actually quite simple. It's a triangle. There are three sides to the triangle: attitudes, knowledge and relationships. We know that if people have appreciative knowledge of another religious tradition, they'll have better attitudes towards it.

We know that if people know an individual from another religious community, they'll have more positive attitudes towards that. So effective interfaith work works the interfaith triangle.

AMANPOUR: (Inaudible) the little graphic that we have on this. For instance, whether it's favorable or unfavorable view of Muslims in the U.S.A., as you just said, people who know Muslims have a 43 percent favorable view; people who don't know have a much less favorable view.

PATEL: Right.

AMANPOUR: So how do you promote that sort of connection? Because many people, you know, don't know (inaudible) other faith.

PATEL: So the strategy of the organization that I started, interfaith youth corps, is to train young people on college campuses to run effective interfaith programs. An effective interfaith program is one where somebody leaves saying, wow, I met a Jew today. I met a Muslim today. I met an evangelical today, and I have a more positive view of that whole community as a result of that.

It's also a program where people say I learned something beautiful about Islam. I learned something beautiful about Judaism. Right? And so what we want to do at interfaith Youth Corps is create this critical mass of young interfaith leaders going out and shaping effective interfaith programs.

AMANPOUR: And you must remember -- and we were going to show it; I don't know whether we have and we're able to show it now, but President George W. Bush, six days after the 9/11 attacks, said this -- he went to a mosque in Washington, D.C., and this is what he said.


GEORGE W. BUSH, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The face of terror is not the true faith of Islam. That's not what Islam is all about. Islam is peace. These terrorists don't represent peace. They represent evil and war.


AMANPOUR: That was considered one of his most important speeches, of course in the intervening years, there's been a lot more antagonism between Americans and Muslims, Americans and the Arab world.

We also hear, as we look around and look at polls and studies and things that according to the Center for American Progress, the rising Islamophobia, that world view they attribute to a tightly-knit work group that's spread misinformation.

PATEL: Right.

AMANPOUR: So in other words, it doesn't necessarily have to be a big sort of deluge of hate speech, but a tightly-knit work group. Again, how do you penetrate that? How do you chip away at that?

PATEL: Well, one of the themes in my book, "Sacred Ground," is that every era in American history is a dynamic between the forces of pluralism, the forces saying we welcome the contributions of a diverse array of communities, and the forces of prejudice, who say some people, whether they pray in Hebrew or Latin or Arabic don't belong. And "Sacred Ground" is really a call to my generation's forces of pluralism to rise up and defeat the forces of prejudice.

AMANPOUR: And to move it just out of the United States, in India, for instance, you wrote in your book in India there are some communities that are predisposed to potentially having, you know, differences explode into violence and those who are not.

PATEL: Right. And communities being cities in this case. And let me -- I think this is a hugely important point, Christiane, that the success of any society in the 21st century is going to be based on whether its various ethnic and religious groups get along with each other, from England to Egypt, all of these societies are diverse.

And if Christians and Muslims of Egypt, if the secularists and religious of England decide that they don't like each other and they're going to fight, that's going to be trouble for the whole society. So building positive social capital between those different communities is absolutely key for nation building in the 21st century.

AMANPOUR: We'll keep watching. Eboo Patel, thank you very much for joining me.

PATEL: Thanks, Christiane.

AMANPOUR: And we'll be right back after a break.



AMANPOUR: And a final thought on this 11th anniversary of 9/11, imagine a world where the drama of that day remains written on the wind. Randy Scott worked as a broker on the 84th floor, when United Flight 175 flew into Two World Trade Center.

For years, his wife and children believed that he had died instantly until last year, when Denise Scott learned of a message written on a scrap of paper that told a different story.

"84th floor west office 12 people trapped." The note had floated down from the doomed tower, one of thousands of bits of anonymous paper. But this one was picked up. It was passed hand to hand until it reached the office of the chief medical examiner of New York. They identified a drop of dried blood on the note by its DNA.

Last year, a decade after her husband wrote it, Denise Scott received his note like a message in a bottle, it found its way home. But it changed everything she and her family had thought. That's it for tonight's program. Meantime, our inbox is always open, Thanks for watching. Goodbye from New York.