By Zach Waksman
Impunity Watch Reporter, Africa
JOHANNESBURG, South Africa – The African National Congress (ANC), South Africa’s governing party, upheld the suspension issued to Julius Malema, president of the ANC’s Youth League (ANCYL), on Saturday. The controversial firebrand was given a five-year suspension from involvement in the party in November 2011. ANCYL deputy president Ronald Lamola, treasurer general Pule Mabe, secretary general Sindiso Magaqa, deputy secretary general Kenetswe Mosenogi; and spokesperson Floyd Shivambu were also given suspensions.
Malema, 30, had once been a key player in President Jacob Zuma’s ascent to power in 2007. He said he would kill for Zuma. But since then, he had changed his mind, throwing his support behind Thabo Mbeki, the president that Zuma unseated. Comments like these were the basis for his November suspension, as he was found guilty of “sowing division within the ANC and of bringing the party into disrepute.”
This was not the first time Malema had drawn a suspension from the party. At his first disciplinary hearing in 2010, he pleaded guilty to the same charge, drawing a two-year suspension; that sentence was suspended. It will soon begin and run concurrently with the five-year ban. He will be stripped of his power and position and banished from the party.
The once powerful youth president made numerous provocative statements from his post. A black nationalist, Malema called for many policies that drew criticism. The ANC has a majority-black electorate, but his call for seizure of white-owned land for redistribution to poor blacks placed his party in conflict with both its constituents and the business community. In July 2009, he recommended that South Africa seize control of its mining industry, ostensibly to end white domination of the economy.
“[W]hen the imperialist forces are accepting the failures of capitalism, we should ask whether the time has not arrived for the government to make sure that the state owns the mines and other means of production,” Malema said about the policy.
But the last straw for his continued service to the ANCYL came last July. During a speech, he appeared to recommend that the neighboring country of Botswana change its government, which is democratically elected. To some, he may have been advocating an invasion.
“Botswana is in full co-operation with imperialists,” he had said in reference to the country’s strong relationship with the United States.
The appeals panel that conducted the hearing believed it had no choice but to uphold the sentence.
“Discipline is one of the key pillars in the life of the ANC,” said Cyril Ramaphosa, a senior party official who led the panel.
Though the panel overturned a sentence for “barging” into an ANC meeting, it considered most of the ANCYL’s arguments to have little merit.
“The appellants’ argument that individual members [of the disciplinary committee] could exert pressure to bear on the NEC and the ANC itself to decide the issues of nationalization and expropriation of land in a particular way and that the exclusion of the appellant would facilitate this outcome is both naïve and absurd,” Ramaphosa said.
In about two weeks, Malema has the opportunity to argue for a reduction of his sentence. The ANC will also be able to make an argument, only for an increase in punishment. He will remain in his capacity as President of the ANCYL until the mitigation hearings are complete. Malema’s chances at obtaining a reduction are considered slim.
“The chances of a reduced sentence are zero[,]” wrote political analyst Eusebius McKaiser in an online article for Politicsweb. “And all that (arguments in mitigation) will achieve is to keeping Malema politically on a life support system for a little while longer. It will not stave off the eventual outcome – political demise.”
The news of the appeal’s failure was cause for celebration in Malema’s hometown of Seshego, where youths viewed him as a dictator. Residents set fire to a Malema t-shirt and car horns resonated across the town.
“I have many responsibilities[;] I don’t care what happened to him… I have my own problems. I want to go back to school and I don’t have money, if I cry for him what will I get?” asked a local resident who did not consider the matter worthy of concern. “They [the ANCYL] talk about economic freedom and nationalization but we [are still] struggling…”
For more information, please see:
Al Jazeera — S. Africa’s ANC Denies Appeal of Youth Leader — 06 February 2012
Cape Times — Malema Hangs on by Thin Thread — 06 February 2012
Mail & Guardian — A League of His Own: ANC Grants Juju a Stay of Execution — 06 February 2012
The Times (Johannesburg) — Malema’s Hometown Celebrates His Failed Appeal — 06 February 2012
BBC — Julius Malema: S. Africa’s ANC Youth Leader Loses Appeal — 04 February 2012
Mail & Guardian — Malema’s Appeal Denied by Disciplinary Committee — 04 February 2012
New York Times — A.N.C. Keeps Suspension of a Leader — 04 February 2012
The Times (Johannesburg) — Guilty! — 04 February 2012
BBC — South Africa’s Julius Malema in His Own Words — 10 November 2011