Politics

Double toil and trouble for Malema – and deja vu as he is charged again

By Carien Du Plessis 19 August 2011

Double-D-day has arrived for ANC Youth League firebrand Julius Malema. He has been slapped with charges that could see him lose his position if found guilty, while the Public Protector will be probing the tenders given to a company he’s linked to. And Floyd Shivambu isn't escaping censure either. CARIEN DU PLESSIS reports.

Julius Malema’s charge sheet reads like the “what not to do” section of the ANC’s constitution. Bringing the ANC into disrepute through his utterances and statements on Botswana (the League wants to work with the opposition to effect regime change there) and sowing divisions in the ranks of the ANC (Malema’s been comparing a current and former president an awful lot lately, even if he didn’t mention names) were but some of “various violations of the ANC constitution” Derek Hanekom, the chairman of the party’s disciplinary committee, informed us of in a statement that dropped like a quiet bomb in our email inboxes – and on Twitter, and on Facebook – just before noon on Friday. Actually, the early statement focused on Malema, but three hours later a revised statement with Shivambu’s name squeezed in, was sent out.

Of course, last year we were awarded the courtesy of hearing about Malema’s charges from ANC deputy secretary-general Thandi Modise in person at a very cramped press conference on the 11th floor of Luthuli House. This time around, the party didn’t bother with a presser, but Hanekom cut straight to the bone. He said he’d “like to confirm” that the ANC, “through its national officials” (that’s the top six, President Jacob Zuma, his deputy Kgalema Motlanthe, secretary-general Gwede Mantashe, his deputy Thandi Modise, chairwoman Baleka Mbete and treasurer-general Mathews Phosa) “served charges this morning on one of its members, namely Comrade Julius Malema, who is also the president of the ANC Youth League”.

The disciplinary matter is now in the hands of Hanekom and his team, who will set a date, venue, and time for the hearing, where Malema will have a chance to defend himself and be represented by “a member of the ANC whose membership is in good standing”. This is unlikely to be Phosa though, as it was last year, seeing that he’s among the top six who pressed the charges.

The ANC seems to have learnt from its mistakes, because this time around it’s not only Mantashe pressing the charges, but all six the officials. This is likely to strengthen the case brought against him, as well as the position of the ANC’s top six, especially Zuma, who came out of last year’s disciplinary hearing slightly tattered. No more divide and rule for Malema this time.

This time the tables have turned against him, as he’s charged as an individual, not as king of the young lions, and separated from the pride. The League cannot now come with the defence (as it had done since last year’s hearing) that he said the incriminating things on behalf of them all. This will save the ANC the embarrassment of having to charge the entire 35-member national executive committee of the League, or indeed, all their tens of thousands of members, as the young ones no doubt want.

ANC sources earlier said that charges against more colleagues of Malema and Shivambu were being drawn up. If these do go ahead (the impression that many of the wiry guys in Malema’s newly-elected executive give is that they are scaredy-cats, but looks could be deceiving), they are likely to be charged separately to isolate Malema just that little bit more, and also because they might only be rapped over the knuckles.

Malema will no doubt try to use the defence that he was democratically elected just over two months ago by a very healthy majority at the League’s national elective conference, which was conducted in a frighteningly ordered and disciplined way.

The League neatly pre-empted Friday’s charges by putting out a statement the day before, following their national working committee meeting, saying they would hold “mass protests”, marching to “strategic sectors of the economy”, including the Johannesburg Stock Exchange, Chamber of Mines, AgriSA, and Zuma’s Union Buildings. This action will be announced on the League’s birthday on September 12 and is likely to serve the double purpose of rallying support for Malema and putting pressure on the ANC by possibly causing some chaos, if only in the traffic.

Of course we reported on Tuesday already that a charge sheet was being drawn up for Malema, following a meeting by the ANC’s top six officials. The ANC has denied that the disciplinary issue was on the agenda of its national executive committee, which meets from Friday to Monday, but there were probably some plans by Malema or his friends to put this on the agenda.

Zuma said in his irregular party missive, ANC Today, that the special NEC meeting would in fact “have no formal agenda… so that NEC members can be free to raise any matter that they feel could be an obstacle or catalyst to the building of the ANC that the founding fathers and mothers sought to build when it was founded in 1912”. In this context, general discipline is on the agenda. Interesting.

Now the young leader is likely to enter the meeting red-faced and wounded, and unless he has a critical mass of supporters amongst the 90 or so leaders in the committee, very few are likely to show their hand by leaping to his defence. If Malema is found guilty and suspended, it will be a serious setback to his mentor Sports Minister Fikile Mbalula’s bid to take over from Mantashe at the ANC’s elective conference next year, but it will strengthen Zuma’s position immensely, as he has been the butt of many recent attacks by Malema.

Meanwhile Malema’s private business is also set to be probed , with Public Protector Thuli Madonsela planning to investigate the role of On-Point Engineering, in which Malema owns shares, in the awarding of tenders in the Limpopo Roads and Transport Department.On-Point Engineering won a R52 million tender in 2009 to run the department’s programme management unit. His affairs are already being probed by the Hawks, the South African Revenue Services and 90% of the country’s investigative hacks.

The young firebrand is in the coming days likely to discover just how permanent – or not – friends in politics are. DM



Photo: Daily Maverick

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