The Youth League of South Africa’s ruling ANC was planning tactics to support its leader Julius Malema, who has galvanised legions of poor black supporters, at a disciplinary hearing this week that could lead to his suspension.
Malema and his spokesman have been charged with “sowing divisions” in the ranks of the African National Congress and bringing the party into disrepute. Their hearing is expected to start on Tuesday behind closed doors at ANC headquarters.
Malema’s call to nationalise mines and seize white-owned land has unnerved investors but struck a chord with poor blacks who also envision him as a future leader of Africa’s biggest economy, Reuters reports.
If Malema is found guilty, he could be suspended from the party because he was found guilty of a similar offence last year.
At the weekend, a fiery Malema said at a political event that the hearing was not in the tradition of the party that has ruled since the end of apartheid 17 years ago.
“We need to remind the elders … the ANC is not a pig. It does not eat its own children. The ANC that eats its own children is not the ANC we know.”
Malema has been charged with defying the ANC by calling for the overthrow of the democratically elected government of neighbouring Botswana and violating party rules.
The Youth League said it plans to bus in Malema supporters from across the country for street rallies outside ANC headquarters in central Johannesburg starting from Monday.
HIGH STAKES HEARING
The hearing is fraught with risks for President Jacob Zuma, who won an election for the party’s top spot in December 2007 with the backing of Malema and other ANC heavyweights.
If Malema is suspended, Zuma will likely silence a power-broker now looking to unseat him when the ANC again elects its leaders next year.
Since the ANC enjoys virtual one-party rule, its president is assured of the country’s leadership. Zuma became South Africa’s president a little over a year after taking over the ANC, forcing out incumbent President Thabo Mbeki.
The Sunday Times newspaper said in an editorial the timing of the move against the Youth League was suspect and pointed to Zuma possibly trying to muzzle Malema.
“South Africans have watched in frustration for months as Malema has insulted political opponents; fanned racial tensions and launched an assault on the country’s economic and foreign affairs policies with impunity.”
But if Malema is exonerated, Zuma could find himself struggling for his political survival and to fend off the youth leader’s calls for a takeover of the mining sector — a move analysts say would bankrupt the country.
They say South Africa cannot afford a nationalisation because the market capitalisation of its listed mining firms amounts to about two-thirds of its gross domestic product and twice its annual national budget.
If it tries to expropriate shares at a fraction of their value, the country could violate international investment guarantees that would trigger its global trading isolation.
Malema, 30, has no direct policy-making power in the ANC but his ability to influence the masses gives him sway over senior leaders seeking to secure their political aspirations.