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ANC Youth League president Julius Malema may be losing the support of his comrades, analysts believe.
This comes after the league on Monday postponed indefinitely a planned emergency meeting of its national executive committee to discuss its response to the shock suspension of Malema last week for calling President Jacob Zuma a dictator.
The suspension, though temporary, was with immediate effect and came with conditions barring Malema from acting in the name of the league or the ANC, addressing any of its structures, and from speaking on matters pertaining to the party.
This was the second such meeting that failed to get off the ground. A meeting initially planned for last Thursday was abandoned over fears that allowing Malema to address it would fall foul of the suspension conditions, and possibly attract disciplinary action against the other youth league members present.
Northern Cape youth league chairman Shadrack Tlhaole said on Monday’s meeting had been postponed because many of those expected to attend had other commitments.
“There is no meeting. People are driving from their Easter weekend destinations. Many of us had our own commitments for Easter and could not disturb our programmes,”’ Tlhaole said.
“Please do not read anything more into this,” he added.
When asked to comment on whether the meeting would take place, ANCYL spokesman Floyd Shivambu said: “What meeting are you talking about? I don’t know anything about any meeting,” before slamming down the phone.
Tlhaole, who has vowed to back Malema to the bitter end, had told The Star on Sunday the meeting would go ahead.
The gathering had been expected to provide an indication to Malema on whether he has the continued support of his colleagues in the league, or whether they will turn their backs on him to protect their own political careers and the stability of the ANC as a whole.
“I think (the failure of the meeting to take place) is related to the current climate in the ANC. The youth league have clearly been advised it would be very unwise to hold a meeting,” said Professor Steven Friedman, research associate at Idasa and visiting professor of politics at Rhodes University.
“President Zuma has made it clear he will go for anybody who defies the ANC leadership, which is why Julius Malema was temporarily suspended.”
Dr Somadoda Fikeni, political analyst and honorary professor at Unisa, said of the ANCYL:
“They might be para lysed, knowing that once there are different positions coming from within the league itself, and they cannot take a unanimous position, it becomes risky to even hold a meeting. However, at the same time, to be silent will equally be interpreted as a league that is divided.
“A youth league seen to be divided cannot then pursue its agenda prior to the policy conference to say ‘here is our programme, or we prefer this or that candidate’.”
Fikeni said the league found itself in an awkward position in relation to some of Malema’s utterances.
“In particular, they might find it difficult to find unanimity on his comments that President Jacob Zuma is a dictator. This might have created a very awkward situation where some members might be saying ‘we did not sanction this kind of language’,” Fikeni said.
“The second issue is that Malema has now given the signal that he is taking the process to court, and that would mean he is working outside the existing ANC framework.”
Meanwhile, calls to Malema’s cellphone were met with the following message: “At the end of everything else, we will not remember the words uttered by the enemy against us, but will remember the silence of our friends during these difficult times. Never surrender, never retreat. Victory is certain. This mailbox is not accepting messages. Goodbye.”