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Malema's Suspension From South Africa's ANC MayStrengthen Zuma

Julius Malema, Head: Youth Wing, African National Congress. (Source: Franz Wild, Bloomberg News, Johannesburg, Press conference in johannesburg, African National Congress headquarters)
Julius Malema, Head: Youth Wing, African National Congress. (Source: Franz Wild, Bloomberg News, Johannesburg, Press conference in johannesburg, African National Congress headquarters)

Feb. 5 (Bloomberg) -- Julius Malema, the leader of the youth league of South Africa’s ruling African National Congress, lost a bid to overturn charges that led to his suspension from the party, increasing President Jacob Zuma’s chances of winning a second term as party leader.

Malema, 30, was cast out of the ANC for five years on Nov. 10, after a disciplinary committee found he brought the party into disrepute by calling for the ouster of the government of neighboring Botswana and insulting ANC leaders. An appeals panel, led by businessman Cyril Ramaphosa, upheld the charges yesterday, while judging that Malema could appeal against the severity of his sentence.

The ANC is due to hold elections in December, and Malema has been pushing for Zuma to be replaced as party leader by his deputy Kgalema Motlanthe. The youth leader, who remained an ANC member while the appeal was pending, may be unable to use ANC platforms to campaign once suspended.

“President Zuma has come out looking a little bit stronger than he was before,” Mari Harris, a political analyst at Ipsos Markinor, a Johannesburg-based research company, said in a phone interview yesterday. “Julius Malema has overestimated his support, both in the country and in the party.”

Discipline

Malema and five other youth league officials who were disciplined for breaking party rules may argue for lighter sentences because they weren’t given the opportunity to present mitigating arguments, Ramaphosa said yesterday in Johannesburg. The disciplinary panel, which must hear their case within 14 days, may decide to impose even harsher sentences, he said.

The decision on when Malema’s suspension will take effect “resides within the leading structures of the ANC,” Jackson Mthembu, a party spokesman, said by phone.

The appeals panel overruled a finding that league officials had purposefully disrupted a meeting where Zuma was present. It dismissed the youth league’s claims that the disciplinary proceedings were procedurally flawed and that the officials who oversaw them were biased.

“Substantively Malema is still the loser,” Aubrey Matshiqi, a political analyst at the Helen Suzman Foundation in Johannesburg, said in a phone interview. “The verdict against him has not changed.”

Malema, who has publicly ridiculed Zuma, has lobbied the ANC to adopt a policy of nationalizing mines, banks and land in Africa’s biggest economy. Chief executives of the largest companies operating in South Africa, including Anglo American Plc and AngloGold Ashanti Ltd., have warned the policy threat may deter investment.

The league, which helped Zuma oust Thabo Mbeki as ANC leader in 2007, successfully pressured the ruling party to study the viability of nationalization. In October last year, Malema led thousands of young supporters on a 62-kilometer (39-mile) march between Johannesburg and Pretoria, calling for nationalization and jobs. A quarter of South Africa’s workforce is unemployed.

To contact the reporters on this story: Mike Cohen in Cape Town at mcohen21@bloomberg.net; Stephen Gunnion in Johannesburg at sgunnion@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Andrew J. Barden at barden@bloomberg.net

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