John Campbell

Africa in Transition

Campbell tracks political and security developments across sub-Saharan Africa.

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South Africa’s Julius Malema Faces the Music—Maybe

by John Campbell
August 30, 2011

ANC Youth League leader Julius Malema (C) addressees his supporters as he is flanked by Pule Mabe (L) and ANC Youth League secretary general Sindiso Magaqa outside the party headquarters in central Johannesburg August 30, 2011. (Siphiwe Sibeko/Courtesy Reuters)

Today, African National Congress (ANC) youth leader Julius Malema faced a party disciplinary hearing. He is charged with bringing the party into “disrepute” and for promoting disunity. If found guilty, he could be suspended for several years. On the other hand, if he is exonerated, he will pose a newly significant political threat to President Jacob Zuma, the party leader.

Malema has staked out radical positions ranging from calls to overthrow the government of Botswana, to nationalizing the country’s mining industry, to expropriating without compensation white-owned farmland. Though Malema has no formal ability to make policy in these areas, he is widely popular among the South African poor, who have seen little improvement in their prospects over the past decade. Though the Zuma government has followed sound, market-based economic policies, it is widely believed in South Africa that Malema’s rhetoric has spooked foreign investors.

Insofar as the disciplinary hearing is a proxy fight between Malema and Zuma for the ANC, I would put my money on the president, given the power of the incumbency and the ANC’s emphasis on internal discipline. But, while Malema’s wings may be clipped, there is likely to be a face-saving dimension to the outcome to ensure that his township and other radical supporters are not alienated from the party. Today’s pro-Malema demonstration in Johannesburg, quelled only with exceptional police measures, shows the strength of his support among South Africa’s poor.

Post a Comment 1 Comment

  • Posted by Erick Majola

    I think it would be some what proper for one
    to remind some of your readers that I once alluded in my
    previous comment that the ANC should assert their views and try to avoid at times to be too lenient to
    some radical elements within and of the ANC YL .
    I think Malema is an intelligent individual . Intelligence coupled with radicalism may not be what Africa need(s) in this day and time , especially in this Economic climate .
    The ANC need to be praised for asserting their role as a leading force even if this means they are to suspend some members if need be as this is better to expulsion .

    The world should know that the ANC will always seek to champion the interest(s) of all South Africa(ns) and entities which seek to do business in the Republic of S.A.
    This is purely a personal opinion .

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