South Africa’s ruling African National Congress spent a second day weighing whether to discipline Julius Malema, leader of its youth wing, for undermining the party, while his supporters refrained from violent protests that rocked central Johannesburg yesterday.
The ANC Youth League angered party elders with demands for the seizure of mines and banks and criticism of government policy. On Aug. 19, Malema and spokesman Floyd Shivambu were ordered to appear before a disciplinary panel after they called for the overthrow of Botswana’s government. Malema’s hearing was adjourned today until Sept. 2, the Johannesburg-based South African Press Association cited Shivambu as saying. The hearing for Shivambu, which was due to take place today was postponed as was the Sept. 1 hearing for four other leaders of the wing, the news agency said.
The ANC rescinded a decision today to move the hearings from its Luthuli House headquarters in central Johannesburg to an undisclosed venue after hundreds of youths pelted police with stones and bottles yesterday. The violence was condemned by the ANC, its military veterans wing and its trade union allies.
“I think Malema’s position has been weakened by these actions of some of his supporters,” Daniel Silke, a Cape Town-based independent political analyst who has advised Telkom South Africa Ltd. and Sanlam Ltd. according to his website, said by phone. “This has served to increase his isolation. It might be easier for the ANC to take much sterner and stronger action against him.”
Dozens of riot police patrolled the streets of Johannesburg today and no incidents of violence were reported. Yesterday, a policeman was hospitalized after being hit on the head by a projectile.
With the ANC due to elect its new leadership at its centenary conference in December next year, the hearings will be a key test of President Jacob Zuma’s authority and may determine whether he wins a second term. The league in the ANC, helped Zuma oust Thabo Mbeki as party leader in 2007.
The disciplinary committee is chaired by Derek Hanekom, the deputy minister of science and technology, and includes Mines Minister Susan Shabangu. Malema criticized Shabangu after she said in February 2010 that nationalization of mines won’t happen “in my lifetime,” while he rebuked Hanekom in June for rejecting the league’s call to seize land from whites without compensation.
Malema’s lawyers tried unsuccessfully to get Hanekom, Shabangu and Collins Chabane, a minister in the presidency, to recuse themselves from the hearings on the grounds that they were biased against him, the Cape Town-based Cape Times newspaper reported.
It isn’t yet known when the committee will deliver its verdict, ANC spokesman Brian Sokutu said by telephone from Johannesburg.
The hearings are “a show of power by Zuma and the current ANC leadership,” Peter Attard Montalto, an economist at Nomura Plc in London, said in e-mailed comments. Unless Malema is thrown out of the party, which is unlikely, he will be in a strong position to influence the outcome of next year’s elective conference, he said.
The ANC has ruled South Africa since all-race elections in 1994 and controls almost two-thirds of the seats in Parliament.
Malema was forced to apologize and pay a fine after admitting in May last year to violating party rules by dividing the ANC and undermining Zuma’s authority. He was warned that he could be suspended if found guilty of breaching its codes again within two years.
“The leadership simply don’t need to be intimidated by Malema any more,” Silke said. “Malema is now a liability. No other organizational structure within the ANC that has leapt to his defense. In a battle between Malema and Zuma, Zuma will win.”
The FTSE/JSE Africa All Share Index rose 2.1 percent to 31,005.5 in Johannesburg today, while the rand gained 1.1 percent to 7.0072 per dollar by 5:59 p.m.