The ANC is busy drawing up charges against Julius Malema and a few of his merry men, but ruling party leaders were coy to talk about the process following two meetings of the party’s top brass on Monday. CARIEN DU PLESSIS reports.
Senior ANC sources have told Daily Maverick that the party is going ahead with formulating charges against ANC Youth League leader Julius Malema and some of his fellow leaders, including the league’s foul-mouthed spokesman Floyd Shivambu.
Details of what these charges entail have not yet been revealed, and the charge sheets have apparently not been delivered to the league yet.
The young lions have recently provoked an uproar within their parent body when Malema told journalists on July 31 that the league wanted to work with opposition parties to oust the ruling Botswana Democratic Party in South Africa’s northern neighbouring state.
This, the ANC said, was against the party’s constitution and constituted ill-discipline.
Then, last Monday, ANC officials postponed a meeting between them and the league’s national executive committee so that it could consider steps against the youth wing.
The league on Saturday apologised for their Botswana pronouncements, having gotten wind of the ANC’s intention to take steps, but their sorry seems to have come too late to avoid being hauled over the coals.
All signs have in recent times pointed towards possible charges against Malema and his league, with a list of their transgressions growing.
In addition, President Jacob Zuma’s resolve to act was again confirmed by his spin doctor Mac Maharaj in an interview with the BBC, broadcast on Monday.
“You’ll be surprised how it (the ANCYL) needs to be attended to – it doesn’t just require a rap on the knuckles,” Maharaj said.
Maharaj added that the treatment of the league required that the ANC discipline it and educate its members.
On Sunday, Zuma – who has been under increasing pressure to put down his foot and demonstrate decisive leadership – also told the City Press that the League was out of order.
The league has been gunning for Zuma to be replaced by another leader, possibly his deputy Kgalema Motlanthe, at the party’s elective conference next year. Any steps against Malema would indicate that Zuma is intent on sticking around for another five-year term and that he has some support for it from within the party.
An upbeat ANC secretary-general Gwede Mantashe – who isn’t known for his verbosity when a journalist wants to know things he doesn’t want her to know – on Monday night played dumb when asked by phone whether the issue of the Youth League was discussed by the party’s top six officials or its national working committee (NWC) at their separate meetings earlier in the day.
He simply replied: “I don’t know.”
Has the ANC decided whether they would be meeting the league? “I don’t know,” he replied.
Did the party decide to press charges against the league? “I don’t know,” he said again, giggling a bit.
The ANC Youth League was equally unforthcoming on Monday night. They were asked whether they had heard from the ANC, or would be meeting with their parent body. Secretary-general Sindiso Magaqa said: “You must ask that from the ANC. It was a meeting of the ANC. You must ask them, ask Gwede.”
The ANC’s top six officials, which include Zuma, Motlanthe, Mantashe, his deputy Thandi Modise, chairwoman Baleka Mbete and treasurer-general Mathews Phosa, met on Monday morning, followed in the afternoon by a meeting by the party’s powerful 31-member NWC, on which the top six also sit.
ANC spokesman Jackson Mthembu, who is a member of the NWC, on Monday evening said the league’s issues were not discussed by the NWC, but would be handled by the officials – suggesting that the ANC wants to keep a tight grip on things. Some in the NWC, like Sports Minister Fikile Mbalula, are aligned with Malema and could defend him or mpimpa on the ANC’s game plans.
The party’s national executive committee, of which Malema as league leader is an ex-officio member, is meeting this weekend and Malema could try to rally some last-ditch support amongst leaders ahead of the gathering.
But the tide seems to have turned against Malema and the meeting is unlikely to affect the ANC’s process of pressing charges. According to the party’s constitution, anybody can bring charges against another ANC member, which means a majority vote from party leadership structures is not necessary.
Mantashe last year prepared charges against Malema (who has been biting the secretary-general over this ever since), while Mantashe’s legal-minded colleague, Phosa, defended Malema. This indicated that there was no unanimity even amongst the party’s top six leaders on the matter.
This time around it is likely that the ANC’s top six would want to have reached some consensus on their steps in order to weaken Malema’s hand, and not give him a gap to divide and rule within the ANC.
Many ANC leaders had, in the past few months, been growing increasingly impatient with the party’s youth wing for its leaders’ controversial pronouncements on ANC and government policy and their sometimes vicious personal attacks on ANC leaders.
This wouldn’t be the first time for Malema before the party’s disciplinary committee. Last year, he was given a suspended sentence after having been convicted of sowing divisions within the party by comparing the leadership of Zuma and his predecessor Thabo Mbeki.
Malema had continued to draw that comparison in recent times, but more subtly, without mentioning the names in direct comparison to each other.
If Malema is to be found guilty on this charge again before April next year, he will be suspended from the ANC.
Then he would have to be on best behaviour and refrain from organising meetings on the side, lest he be kicked out of the party altogether for being a “counter-revolutionary force”. Malema, of all people, surely wouldn’t want to be called that. DM
"Take a chance, won't you? Knock down the fences which divide. Tear apart the walls that imprison you. Reach out. Freedom lies just on the other side." ~ Thurgood Marshall