South Africa’s ruling African National Congress has charged four more members of its youth wing with violating its rules, piling pressure on a group that has rattled elements in the ANC leadership and investors with calls to nationalise mines.
Last week, the ANC charged Youth League leader Julius Malema and his spokesman with “sowing divisions” and bringing the party into disrepute after the group made comments calling for the overthrow of the democratically elected government of neighbouring Botswana.
“(The) ANC National Disciplinary Committee would like to confirm that the African National Congress, through its National Officials, has further served charges on four members,” the party said in a statement on Wednesday, Reuters reports.
Those charged include the Youth League’s deputy president and secretary general.
The ANC action comes as President Jacob Zuma has been trying to fend off opponents backed by the league for top spots in the party when it holds elections for several senior positions next year. Malema, who helped Zuma rise to lead ANC, has been hinting he wants Zuma out.
Malema’s Youth League has been at odds before with the ANC over foreign policy but never hit with punishments. In the past week, Malema also has seen the launch of separate probes into his finances by the police and public protector.
The charges could quieten calls from Malema for a take-over of the resource-rich country’s mining sector — a move analysts said would bankrupt Africa’s richest economy.
Over the past few years, Malema has been one of the country’s most influential politicians, whose support can boost candidates in the fractious ANC. He has been viewed as a kingmaker ahead of the meeting next year where the ruling party elects its leaders.
Malema’s calls for nationalisation have won him broad support among the poor hoping to receive more from South Africa’s mineral wealth.
“At the moment, Zuma is in a position of really needing to consolidate power around him,” said Lucy Holborn, a researcher at the South African Institute of Race Relations.
Analysts said charging more Youth League members could drastically weaken Malema, but the ANC also runs the risk that the group facing charges will find strength in numbers.
If Malema, 30, was found guilty by a disciplinary committee, he could be suspended from the party because he was found guilty of a similar offence last year.
He could be suspended for up to five-years, which would mean he would be too old to lead the youth wing, his main powerbase.
Senior ANC officials have warned the nationalisation debate is damaging the country’s reputation. Talk of a mining take over has undermined confidence in a sector that accounts for 6 percent of GDP and tarnished South Africa’s image as a promising emerging market investment destination.