President Jacob Zuma

Michelle Pietersen

Political Bureau

Julius Malema has been denied an official slot to address ANC centenary celebrations this weekend – but the ANC Youth League has arranged a number of mini-rallies for him to speak to supporters.

ANC spokesman Keith Khoza confirmed yesterday that Malema would not be featuring on the formal programme.

League spokesman Floyd Shivambu said the three mini-rallies had been convened by the league to mark “the massive contribution of youth and the youth league in the growth and development of the ANC in its 100 years of existence”.

“President Julius Malema will make reflections on the important role of youth in the ANC throughout its history, and contextualise the current struggles of the ANC Youth League within that context.”

Malema is awaiting the outcome of his appeal against his five-year suspension from the ANC for sowing division and bringing the party into disrepute.

Malema has used public platforms to push his political agenda and to ridicule President Jacob Zuma.

Khoza reminded the youth leader that his disciplinary process was still under way, in the hope that it would “assist to restrain” unruly and embarrassing behaviour.

“This weekend is an ANC issue and we expect (Malema) to work together for the success and unity of the ANC,” said Khoza.

“The (disciplinary process) is ongoing and we believe it should assist to restrain the league and encourage them to engage constructively.”

Khoza said the ANC women’s and youth leagues and the party’s allies, Cosatu and the SACP, would run their own programmes to draw crowds to the main event, the rally on Sunday where Zuma will deliver an abridged version of the centennial January 8 statement.

But with tensions rife among ANC factions, it remains to be seen if Malema will heed the words of the mother body and behave.

With the local and international spotlight on the ANC this weekend, party leaders would not want public divisions to tarnish the moment.

ANC national executive committee members have been in the Free State since Tuesday rallying people to attend the celebrations.

Zuma, his deputy Kgalema Motlanthe and party secretary-general Gwede Mantashe will be doing walkabouts as far afield as Bethlehem, QwaQwa and Harrismith today and tomorrow, when guests are due to begin arriving.

A night vigil will be held at the Waaihoek Wesleyan Church, the founding place of the ANC tomorrow night, culminating in a cleansing and restoration ceremony early on Saturday morning.

Dignitaries – among them about 46 heads of state – will arrive on Saturday.

These include Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe, Nigeria’s President Goodluck Jonathan, President Ian Khama of Botswana and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.

Although invited, US President Barack Obama will not attend, but the Rev Jesse Jackson will be among 24 “eminent persons” there.

Representatives of 80 fraternal parties, including the MPLA, Swapo, Frelimo, the Norwegian Labour Party, Communist Party of Cuba, the German Social Democratic Party and the National Congress of India have confirmed they will be present, as well as 50 representatives from anti-apartheid movements from all over the world and family members of prominent individuals such as the late Father Trevor Huddleston.

Opposition party leaders have also been invited. ACDP leader the Rev Kenneth Meshoe has declined.

Among traditional leaders, royalty and prominent guests attending will be King Goodwill Zwelithini, Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu and leaders of faith-based organisations.

They will be among the 1 500 guests at the lavish gala dinner at Vista University on Saturday night.

It’s likely that former president Thabo Mbeki will make an address. The ANC has confirmed that Mbeki will have a role to play but won’t divulge the details.

At the stroke of midnight on Saturday, Zuma will light the centenary torch that will travel from province to province over the next 12 months