South Africa’s African National Congress rejected an application from youth wing leader Julius Malema to drop disciplinary charges against him, undermining his political power within the ruling party as he faces expulsion.
Malema, 30, who has led a campaign to nationalize the country’s mines, was accused by the ANC of undermining the party by calling for the ousting of Botswana’s government and criticizing ANC leaders. The outcome of the disciplinary action may determine the political future of President Jacob Zuma, who has lost the support of the ANC Youth League after it helped to sweep him into power as the head of the ANC in 2007.
“It’s a great setback for Malema,” Frans Cronje, deputy chief executive officer of the South African Institute of Race Relations, said in a telephone interview today from Johannesburg today. “This is a battle for the short-term future of the ANC. If Malema loses, Zuma may well win a second-term as ANC president next year.”
The disciplinary hearing will resume on Sept. 5, the ANC said in an e-mailed statement today. The ANC is due to elect its new leadership at a centenary conference in December 2012, with the party’s leader becoming its presidential candidate in the nation’s elections in 2014.
The ANC took steps to discipline Malema after he told reporters on July 31 that Botswana’s government is a threat to regional security and the league would help opposition parties in that country to oust the “puppet” administration of President Ian Khama. ANC Secretary-General Gwede Mantashe said on Aug. 3 the comments were a “serious transgression.”
Malema’s lawyers tried unsuccessfully on Aug. 30 to have three members of the disciplinary committee removed, including its chairman Derek Hanekom, the deputy minister of science and technology, and Mines Minister Susan Shabangu. Malema has criticized Shabangu and Hanekom publicly in the past for not supporting the Youth League’s push to nationalize the country’s mines and expropriate land without compensation.
Lawyers for Malema argued that the charges should be dropped because the ANC’s rules were unreasonable, confusing and didn’t govern what members can say, the disciplinary committee said in its statement today. The charges weren’t clear and didn’t disclose what rule had been breached, Malema’s application said, according to the ANC.
Malema is already under a suspended sentence, after he admitted in May last year to violating party rules by dividing the ANC and undermining Zuma’s authority. He was warned that he faced suspension from the party if he was found guilty of breaching its codes again within two years.