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Malema to face major disciplinary charge


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Star

Under fire: Firebrand ANC youth leader Julius Malema will be disciplined by the ANC. Photo: Bongiwe Mchunu, The Star

By Caiphus Kgosana, Sibusiso Ngalwa and Carien du Plessis

Firebrand ANC youth leader Julius Malema will be disciplined by the ANC, but his supporters are mounting a campaign in defence of their embattled Youth League president.

The enfant terrible of South African politics is to face numerous charges and party secretary-general Gwede Mantashe has written to Malema informing him of pending action over his ill-discipline.

One of the charges Malema is expected to face is a major one - that of bringing the ANC into disrepute.

While there were indications that the ANC's national working committee would first discuss the question of whether or not to act against Malema at its meeting tomorrow, the new chairman of the party's national disciplinary committee, Derek Hanekom, confirmed that he had received a request that steps should be taken.

Hanekom, who is also deputy science and technology minister, would not comment further on the matter, referring all queries to Luthuli House.

"Yes, the matter is in front of us. I don't think it would be appropriate for members of the disciplinary committee to start making media comments at this stage," was all he would say.

Hanekom replaced Zola Skweyiya as the party's disciplinary chief when the former Social Development minister was appointed South Africa's high commissioner in London.

Moves to defend Malema began last week with suggestions that Zuma was canvassing support among the party's top officials to move against the man journalists have dubbed "Kiddie Amin", a reference to the former Ugandan military dictator Idi Amin.

Zuma yesterday said ANC members should think before they speak.

Addressing mourners at the funeral of the late activist Leslie Masina, Zuma said unity was vital for the country's future.

"Unity is paramount for the success of our democracy," he said.

"No one among us should do anything that undermines our unity. That is why I have said that we must think before we act, think before we speak in public," said Zuma.

Mobilising in Malema's defence is well under way, but it appears that not all youth league structures are keen to help him.

League spokesman and Malema's right-hand man, Floyd Shivambu, yesterday fired off a text message informing youth league members that Malema was to be charged with ill-discipline.

He said Mantashe - whom he described as "outgoing" - had written to Malema informing him of this in a letter.

Shivambu appealed for provincial structures to rally behind Malema by releasing statements "in defence of the president".

Not all league structures are willing to race to Malema's defence, however.

An Eastern Cape youth leader said that they were similarly repulsed by Malema's behaviour.

"Don't expect a statement from us. Although we supported him in Mangaung (where he was elected), ... we can't be glorifying a leader who is speaking out against the ANC. We won't be part of a personality cult," said the leader.

The Eastern Cape is the next crucial ANC Youth League province to have its elective conference.

It will follow last weekend's chaotic Limpopo conference, the outcome of which is being challenged by the former provincial leadership.

The Limpopo gathering was marred by scenes of violence, where police - called in at Malema's behest - used water cannon and arrested some delegates opposed to Malema.

Another Malema supporter said youth league members were worried Mantashe would use the disciplinary process to wage a "political campaign" to get rid of Malema.

"The offices (in the ANC) responsible for the charges are the president's office and the secretary-general's office. We can't rule out political intentions by anyone coming up with such charges, because the youth league has expressed its preference for another incumbent in the office (of secretary-general)," said the source, who wanted to remain anonymous.

Malema has openly expressed the youth league's preference for former league leader and deputy police minister Fikile Mbalula to take Mantashe's place as secretary-general after the ANC's 2012 elective conference. Malema's apparent questioning of his first-ever public repudiation by Zuma last weekend stoked to boiling point the simmering anger among party leaders over the firebrand's apparent refusal to toe the line.

Zuma himself is understood to have been enraged by Malema's response to his rebuke, when he said that not even former president Thabo Mbeki - whom he helped topple - had dealt with the league in public as Zuma had.

But disciplinary action was already on the cards.

The ruling party was not impressed when Malema made negative comments in the wake of AWB leader Eugene Terre'blanche's killing, after its leadership had specifically instructed its leaders and structures to refrain from comment in an effort to cool a political temperature that was becoming dangerously overheated.

Malema's ejection of BBC correspondent Jonah Fisher from a youth league press conference, when he called him a "bastard" and a "bloody agent", sparked world headlines and questions as to why Zuma could not rein him in.

Anger over Malema's antics has not been limited to the ANC leadership, where even those closely allied to him have found it increasingly hard to continue defending his actions.

Ire has also been simmering in the broader South African community, while his comments in Zimbabwe and his verbal abuse of the BBC's Fisher saw the ripple effect surge across the country's borders into the international arena.

Malema's comments during an official visit to meet with the Zanu-PF youth league saw him come dangerously close to derailing painstaking mediation efforts led by Zuma to get Zimbabwe's unity government fully functioning.

League insiders argue, however, that Malema went to Zimbabwe with Zuma's blessing, and that he even asked Malema to pass on his regards to Zimbabwean president and Zanu-PF leader Robert Mugabe.

They - and Malema himself - argue that he could not have done anything wrong in this regard.

Malema's defenders also say that he had apologised for chasing BBC journalist Jonah Fisher out of the press conference by admitting that the incident was "regrettable", and occurred after the journalist had provoked Malema by interrupting him. Zuma's communications adviser and close aide, Zizi Kodwa, is also in the line of youth league fire.

Malema's backers are blaming Kodwa for organising the press conference last Saturday where Zuma rebuked Malema.

Mantashe and Kodwa could not be reached for comment.


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