JOHANNESBURG - South Africa’s ruling ANC wants to close the book on renegade youth leader Julius Malema, but analysts warned yesterday his expulsion could still rock President Jacob Zuma’s re-election drive.
The African National Congress appeals panel late Tuesday rejected Malema’s pleas to allow him to keep his party card, after he was booted out for fomenting divisions within its ranks.
“This outcome brings to finality a matter that has been under way for more than nine months,” party spokesman Jackson Mthembu said in a statement.
The “difficult and painful decision” had been necessary “in the defence of the organisation”, he said.
Malema has yet to comment on the decision, but a recording on his cell phone’s voice mail told his supporters: “Never surrender, never retreat, victory is certain.”
“At the end of everything else, we will not remember the words uttered by the enemies against us, but will remember the silence of our friends during these difficult times,” said the message, according to The Star newspaper.
The party’s internal battles with Malema are the most visible face of the ANC’s leadership contest, leading up to its elective conference in December when Zuma will seek another term as party chief.
If Zuma comes out on top at the leadership conference, he is almost assured of a second term as South Africa’s president, given the ANC’s huge support among voters.
Malema has already indicated that he would plead his case at the leadership conference, where the party’s one million members could give their say.
“The backdrop to all of this is December, and there’s nothing in this to suggest that Malema has given up the fight,” his biographer Fiona Forde told AFP.
“It’s not impossible that he can make a comeback. Malema is very politically astute.” Malema was a key ally when Zuma rose to power, once boasting that he was ready to “kill” for Zuma ousting former president Thabo Mbeki at the party’s previous leadership vote in 2007. Just like Mbeki, Zuma has since lost touch with the South African sidewalk, said Forde.
“He’s as disconnected from the rank and file as his predecessor was,” she said.
Malema appealed to South Africa’s poor who have yet to enjoy the benefits of democracy. Eighteen years after the end of white-minority rule, about 40 percent of the population still lives in poverty, with unemployment at nearly 24 percent.
They were Malema’s audience when he called to nationalise mines and banks, or to seize white-owned farms -- policies that he advocated even after the mother party had rejected them.
Zuma also rode to power on promises to help the poor, but during his time in office has stuck to free-market policies, moving to fight unemployment by spending billions of dollars on big infrastructure projects that he says will shore up the economy.
Now Malema derides Zuma as “dictatorial”, and has become the public face of opposition to Zuma within the ANC.
“Malema is part of a faction, the faction can do without him. The faction will continue to do what they’ve been doing beforehand,” said political analyst Steven Friedman.
“If they need another young man to say the things that Malema was saying, they’ve got plenty of candidates.”
“The only chance Malema as an individual has of surviving this is that those who found him useful still find him useful enough to actually fight for him” at the leadership meeting, he added. - Nampa/AFP