A group of young men are seen with Viva Malema slogans written on their bodies during the Cosatu march against Labour Brokers and E-tolling in JHB cbd.Thousands of people took part in the march. Picture:Paballo Thekiso

A showdown looms between the ANC and its youth league over the latter’s insistence that only its structures and membership can remove its leaders.

Following the expulsion from the ANC of leader Julius Malema for sowing division, the league’s special national executive committee (NEC) last Sunday breathed defiance.

“It is only the internal process of the ANC Youth League that can decide to elect or un-elect leadership of the ANC Youth League. The ANC Youth League will never agree that its leadership be subjected to unfair and unjust treatment or banished for narrow political purposes,” it said.

The ANC would not be drawn on this.

The league’s argument was one of several it made in the protracted disciplinary process against Malema, league secretary-general Sindiso Magaqa and spin doctor Floyd Shivambu. They included the disciplinary process being used to score political points, the disciplinary committee being biased and charges being brought incorrectly.

But both the ANC national disciplinary committee and the ANC national disciplinary committee of appeals (NDCA) ruled that disciplinary verdicts imposed by the ANC also applied to its youth league because it derived its mandate through the ANC. Any other interpretation was “absurd”.

“Although the youth league has an organisational and administrative life of its own… the appellants correctly conceded that in the event of conflict between the constitutions of the youth league and the ANC, the ANC constitution will prevail,” said disciplinary appeals chairman Cyril Ramaphosa in handing down the verdicts in February.

While the league maintained this week that Malema would remain its leader – and would be invited to address meetings regardless of his status, as part of a fight-back campaign – a clash with the ANC is on the cards once the national disciplinary committee of appeals has made its findings.

But first, Malema, Magaqa and Shivambu must file their appeal by Wednesday and further proceedings will take time. Ramaphosa must co-ordinate diaries with Justice Minister Jeff Radebe, National Planning Minister in the Presidency Trevor Manuel, head of monitoring in Luthuli House Jessie Duarte, and Brigitte Mabandla, the former justice minister.

If the committee of appeals upholds Malema’s expulsion it becomes effective immediately. So would the three-year suspension of Magaqa if he fails to apologise for an attack on Public Enterprises Minister Malusi Gigaba, and that of Shivambu.

If the league maintains that only it can expel or otherwise sanction its leaders, the dispute between the youth league and the ANC would come to a head. But that would be a gamble, as it would have the option of lobbying ANC national executive committee members to petition the NEC to review the verdicts.

There is no certainty the sentences would be overturned. - Marianne Merten