Thousands of supporters of South African youth leader Julius Malema plan to end a 62-kilometer (39-mile) march on President Jacob Zuma’s offices today, after walking through most of the night.
The demonstrators, most of them members of Malema’s African National Congress Youth League, yesterday handed over a letter to the Chamber of Mines and the Johannesburg stock exchange calling on businesses to share their wealth more widely and help address mass youth unemployment and poverty.
The marchers arrived at about 3 a.m. in the capital, Pretoria, where they will later on hand over a similar set of demands at the Union Buildings, which house Zuma’s office, the Youth League said in an e-mailed statement today.
The protest has been an attempt by Malema and his supporters to show that they won’t back Zuma for a second term at next year’s party elections. The Youth League was a key supporter in Zuma’s successful drive to defeat former President Thabo Mbeki for the leadership of the party and Africa’s biggest economy.
“Zuma has failed to unite the ANC, he failed the poorest of the poor,” Mzukisi Ntutu, a 28-year-old municipal worker and Youth League member from the Eastern Cape, said in an interview yesterday.
Addressing the crowd when they arrived in Pretoria, Malema left out Zuma when he praised past South African leaders Nelson Mandela, Mbeki and Kgalema Motlanthe, according to footage on Cape Town-based eNews.
Malema, 30, and five other Youth League leaders are facing ANC disciplinary hearings and may be expelled for bringing the the ruling party into disrepute by calling the government in neighboring Botswana a “puppet of the West.” He’s championed the nationalization of mines in South Africa, the world’s top producer of platinum and chrome, and chided Zuma for failing to improve the lot of the poor.
In contrast to a pro-Malema protest outside the ANC’s Johannesburg headquarters in August, where demonstrators hurled bottles and rocks, the current march is peaceful.
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