Julius Malema is congratulated by deputy president Kgalema Motlanthe and Winnie Madikizela-Mandela after being re-elected as president of the ANC youth league. Picture: Bongiwe Mchunu

ANC Youth League leader Julius Malema has come out guns blazing and stronger than ever, calling for a “war on policy shifts” and for “proper” leadership in the ANC.

But he again tried to put President Jacob Zuma at ease by saying “we don’t want to remove anybody”.

Emboldened by his unopposed re-election by about 5 300 delegates at the league’s four-day, R37 million congress in Midrand, which ended in the small hours of Monday morning with a party, Malema laid into the government’s international policy, especially on Libya, the slow pace of land redistribution and“selective” disciplining of ANC leaders like himself.

In his speech lasting more than two hours on Sunday afternoon, to which tired and hungry delegates listened intently, a fired-up Malema called on youth league members to swell the ranks of the ANC. Also, to take over as many positions in the mother body as they could, from branch to national level, to push the youth league’s views on policies like the nationalisation of mines.

“We need to report on how many branches of the ANC are there, and how many are led by the ANC youth league. We are going to a war, comrades, a war on policy shift.

“Youth, you must be everywhere in the structures of the ANC,” he said. Fifty percent, or more, of all ANC positions should be occupied by league members, he said.

“Where there is a possibility of taking everything, just take.

“If there is a way of taking the whole (provincial executive council), there is nothing stopping you. It will be more revolutionary, if we find you all over.”

Former league leader Fikile Mbalula employed a similar strategy of flooding the mother body’s structures with youth to enable the league to play the role of kingmaker in Zuma’s election as party president in 2007.

The league is now likely to use this strategy to replace secretary-general Gwede Mantashe with Mbalula at the ANC’s elective congress next year.

The league had already succeeded in getting its preferred candidates – recent or serving youth league leaders – elected as provincial secretaries, organisationally among the most powerful positions.

It is unclear as yet who the league would support for president, and although Malema has gone out of his way recently to put Zuma at ease about the league’s support, some within the league want Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe to take over.

Malema also urged ANC leaders to lead the league, because in the case of a leaderless movement “reactionaries” would emerge.

“The ANC must lead our people. We are asking for radical policy shifts. We want action from our leaders,” Malema said.

In line with a resolution discussed by the league’s congress, Malema called for a more open discussion within the ANC on leadership and succession.

“For us to say we aren’t happy with this or that leader doesn’t mean we are calling for the closure of the ANC,” he said.

“This thing that you can’t talk about leaders undermines our capacity (to) strengthen the ANC, including making leaders aware of their weaknesses.”

Malema duly laid into leaders like Mantashe, and, without mentioning names, the leaders of the ANC’s leftist allies.

Various other ANC leaders came under attack, including Deputy Science and Technology Minister Derek Hanekom, who is the chairman of the party’s disciplinary committee, which last year found Malema guilty of sowing division in the party.

Malema slammed Hanekom for tweeting on Saturday that he would “never” support the league’s stance on land redistribution without compensation.

Malema also directed a veiled warning to Police Minister Nathi Mthethwa for removing his VIP protection last year, saying current leaders would themselves one day be out of power and walk without protection.

Malema ended his speech by profusely thanking everyone, including the congress’s funders, whom he didn’t name, his protectors who resigned from the police to protect him, and his grandmother.

Motlanthe, ANC stalwart Winnie Madikizela-Mandela, and some former ANC youth league leaders and ANC national executive committee members sat with the league’s newly-elected national executive committee on stage, while retiring members of the committee sat in the audience, including a smiling former secretary general Vuyiswa Tulelo, who had brought her children along.

Motlanthe agreed with the league that land reform should be speeded up, but urged “meaningful debate” on the matter.

In what could be interpreted as a way of tempering Malema’s talk on African nationalism, Motlanthe told the league’s new leaders to “discharge your responsibility… with ANC youth league members and South Africa as a whole at heart”.

Motlanthe called for regular meetings between the league’s leaders and the ANC.

Madikizela-Mandela had a few tips for the new leaders and told Malema he and his unsuccessful challenger, Gauteng chairman Lebogang Maile, should work together like former ANC leaders Nelson Mandela and Oliver Tambo. – Political Bureau