South Africa’s Ruling ANC Party Says Youth Wing Undermining Party Leaders

South Africa’s ruling African National Congress accused its youth wing of undermining its leadership, the latest sign of a rift within its ranks.

Julius Malema, the leader of the youth league, has been pushing for the government to nationalize mines, banks and land, and on July 30 called for regime change in Botswana, which he accused of being a puppet of the U.S.

“When it comes to the ANC youth league, we have had many incidents that show the desire to undermine the ANC leadership,” Gwede Mantashe, the party’s secretary-general, said in an e-mailed statement today. The challenge to the ANC’s position on Botswana “constitutes a serious transgression.”

The comments come after the youth league yesterday rebuffed earlier criticism of Malema’s comments, saying in an e-mailed statement the party had no right to criticize it publicly and that it stood by its statements. The ANC had called Malema’s statement “extremely thoughtless and embarrassing” and showed the youth league has “clearly crossed the political line.”

Malema said on Sept. 30 that Botswana’s government posed a threat to regional security because of its close ties to the U.S. and the league would help opposition parties in Botswana oust the “puppet government” of President Ian Khama.

Mantashe Challenge

Local newspapers have reported that the league wants to replace Mantashe with former youth league leader Fikile Mbalula when the ANC holds leadership elections in December next year.

Botswana is the world’s largest diamond producer and has Africa’s highest credit rating. Khama was the only leader of the 15-nation Southern African Development Community to publicly reject assertions by Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe that he won 2008 elections. Malema said Botswana was in the process of creating a “military base of imperialism” in the country and “we cannot have a neighbor like that.”

The “ANC clearly has no policy of supporting regime changes even in countries governed by parties who may not share our ideological outlook,” Mantashe said. “We believe in the respect of the sovereignty of other countries.”

To contact the reporter on this story: Mike Cohen in Cape Town at mcohen21@bloomberg.net.

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Philip Sanders in London at psanders@bloomberg.net.

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