ANC Youth League leader Julius Malema has the ANC exactly where he wants it, with the grand finale of his disciplinary hearing timed to coincide with his organisation’s muscle-flexing protests for economic freedom for youngsters. Still, the ANC is soldiering on. CARIEN DU PLESSIS reports.
It is difficult to tell who has the upper hand in the arm-wrestling contest between the ANC’s disciplinary committee and ANC Youth League leader Julius Malema. The hearing is still continuing, almost two months after it started amid scenes of chaos in the city centre, caused by Malema’s supporters. This shows that the ANC is determined not to let this one drop (although ANC insiders at the start said they had wanted a speedy resolution to the case).
But it’s been dragged out for a long time which shows that Malema, in turn, has managed to twist the ANC’s arm to such an uncomfortable position, that he might just force his way on this one.
On Saturday, Malema’s hearing continued (at the 90,000-seater FNB Stadium no less. How big was the ANC thinking?) with testimony by housing minister and senior ANC leader Tokyo Sexwale, who had previously publicly questioned the motives for the case against Malema.
On this occasion, Sexwale asked that the ANC accept the League’s apology on the Botswana matter, in the same way it had accepted apologies from spokesman Jackson Mthembu when he was found guilty of drunk driving, and of President Jacob Zuma for his condomless sex with a woman he wasn’t married to (the woman who accused him of rape). Neither Jackson nor Zuma was disciplined by the party.
The League is still pretty sore about the Botswana incident, and mentioned it last week in a statement condemning the United States government for its continued detention of the Cuban Five. (It started the statement by saying, with a hint of bitterness: “At the risk of facing disciplinary action for speaking about affairs of another country …”)
Malema has managed to delay the action against him in the beginning by taking on the ANC on procedural matters, which meant the real case against him only started about a month later.
And then, the week before last, he was in hospital with “flu-like” symptoms when his case was set to continue, which again bought him some time.
There are five charges, which was going to make the case complicated to start with. The fact that the other four top officials of the League were charged at the same time, made things even more interesting.
Of course the ANC, which had been intent on kicking the young man out, had to allow the case to proceed meticulously to give him all the leeway he needed. This would lessen his ammunition for a possible appeal.
The case is now set down to continue on 26 October, the final day for calling witnesses, and closing arguments from both sides are to be heard on 3 November.
The disciplinary committee said it would rule “probably about five days later” on Malema’s case, as well as the cases of his four co-accused.
The thing is, in between the 26th and the 3rd comes the 27th and 28th, the two days on which the Youth League is planning to hold its protests, ostensibly to call for economic freedom in the lifetime of young people.
It’s targeting the JSE, the Chamber of Mines and the Union Buildings – all three of which had been objects of Malema’s scorn in the past year or two. The League, which has a phobia for forward planning most of the time, announced this action last month already, and is clearly hoping to pull the crowds. Malema even made a YouTube video to call followers into action, and although the YouTube clip has failed to grab them quite in the way Evan “Buck Norris” van der Spuy’s cycling adventure has, by Sunday it had managed about 3,600 hits.
If a lot of kids turn up for an action that even Cosatu and the Young Communist League have voiced their “broad” support for (the labour federation was, however, at pains to point out that it would not actually participate in the protests, although it supports the sentiments – this either points to miscommunication from Cosatu’s part, or possible divisions; the Young Reds have also indicated that their support would not be physical), it would give Malema a boost, and it would make any suspension or harsh punishment from the ANC’s side seem unreasonable. At least it would make the ANC seem like old fogeys who are out of touch with the masses – exactly the type of thing that had caused former president Thabo Mbeki’s downfall in 2007.
Malema on Friday again proved that he has pulling power by filling up two lecture halls (with space for about 350 people) for a “lecture” on economic freedom, even if many of the attendees were curious students.
According to reports, he didn’t really speak much about his disciplinary, except when he compared himself to Nelson Mandela, who was called a disrespectful youngster too in his young days.
This sounds positively tame in comparison to the speech he made just before the start of his hearing, when he dramatically said the ANC wasn’t a pig that would eat its own children. That speech was vintage Malema-in-a-corner, but that was then. Friday’s speech would indicate that he’s out of that corner now and bulging his biceps.
This would lend credence to the rumour of a “political solution” being sought, which would see Malema rapped over the knuckles by the ANC instead of being pushed to the floor completely (something that sounds like the kind of proposal that would have originated from Sexwale).
Still, the party would want to go through the motions of the disciplinary to avoid becoming Malema’s push-overs in turn. DM
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