South African youth leader Julius Malema led thousands of supporters in a march on President Jacob Zuma’s offices as he signaled he would oppose him for a second term at next year’s ruling party leadership contest.
After walking from Johannesburg 62 kilometers (39 miles) to the Union Buildings in Pretoria, the demonstrators today handed over a memorandum to Zuma’s office calling for more spending on the poor and greater distribution of South Africa’s wealth among blacks. They made similar demands yesterday to the Chamber of Mines and the Johannesburg Stock Exchange.
Malema, 30, and five other Youth League leaders face possible expulsion or suspension from the ruling African National Congress in disciplinary hearings for allegedly undermining the party. He left out Zuma when he led chants praising past South African leaders after the demonstrators arrived in Pretoria at about 3 a.m., according to footage on Cape Town-based eNews. Malema and others made hand gestures resembling those signaling a substitution in a soccer match.
“The signals tell us there’s no chance at all that they’ll support Zuma” for a second term, Somadoda Fikeni, a political analyst at the Pretoria-based University of South Africa, said today in an interview. “Malema, besieged by possible expulsion and suspension, is showing his muscle. Zuma has to be worried.”
The ANC Youth League was instrumental in Zuma’s successful drive to defeat former President Thabo Mbeki for the leadership of the party and Africa’s biggest economy. Now it’s lost faith in Zuma after he didn’t back its call for the nationalization of mines in South Africa, the world’s top producer of platinum and chrome.
Wearing a black beret and yellow T-shirt bearing the image of liberation hero Nelson Mandela, Malema said the march showed the youth’s determination to change “deep-seated problems in our society” such as poor education and housing, high unemployment and adequate local services.
“This is not the end but the beginning of the struggle for economic emancipation” that hasn’t been achieved since the end of white minority rule in 1994, Malema told the cheering crowd. “Down with white monopoly capital,” he chanted.
There is a danger that already frequent protests in townships about the low standard of living may become more frequent and intense, Fikeni said.
South Africa’s jobless rate of 25.7 percent is the highest of 61 countries tracked by Bloomberg. Food, fuel and electricity costs in September drove inflation to 5.7 percent, nearly double its level compared with the same period a year earlier.
In contrast to a pro-Malema protest outside the ANC’s Johannesburg headquarters in August, where demonstrators hurled bottles and rocks, the current march has been peaceful.
“The issues they’re raising are quite genuine,” Fikeni said. “The fear is that if we don’t attend to these concerns, this could lead to a national wave of riots.”
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