By Carien Du Plessis and Andisiwe Makinana
ANC Youth League president Julius Malema’s political future is on a knife edge after he led his troops in “storming” the stage during a closed session of the party’s national general council in Durban on Thursday night.
President Jacob Zuma referred to the incident during his closing remarks yesterday.
He accused the youth league of undermining unity, and described their behaviour as “an alien culture and unwelcome tendency in the ANC”, while senior ANC members yesterday said Malema’s action was “the last straw”.
“There is no need for intimidation and disruption of meetings simply because you do not agree or want to push a particular position,” Zuma said.
Zuma, wearing a leather jacket in ANC colours, said not only did such behaviour undermine unity, but it also constituted ill-discipline.
“It must not be tolerated,” he said to loud applause from the more than 2 000 delegates.
Calling on ANC members to use “the art of persuasion to win people over”, Zuma warned that anyone who crossed the line would face the consequences.
Zuma said the league had tabled the issue of nationalisation at the NGC after being told to raise it within ANC structures.
“Now that they have tabled it correctly, it has become an issue to be processed by the organisation, and is no longer just a youth league issue,” Zuma said.
It has been decided that the ANC’s national executive committee will research the matter further and submit a report to the party’s 2012 policy conference, ahead of its next elective conference that year.
Zuma stressed that nationalisation was not yet official ANC policy. His speech was followed by his singing Umshini Wami, with Malema and youth league delegates joining in.
Malema, who is on a two-year suspended sentence after he was found guilty of causing divisions in the party, faces immediate expulsion for a repeat offence.
The league’s outburst, described as “unprecedented” by furious senior leaders, came during a discussion by delegates on the nationalisation of mines late on Thursday night.
The league had wanted the gathering to adopt nationalisation as a resolution, but was outvoted by ANC delegates, who wanted the party to investigate it first.
Senior ANC leaders were said to be furious after the “assault” by Malema and his troops on the party’s leadership, with one leader vowing to personally formulate disciplinary charges if the ANC’s leaders failed to.
The leader said the league’s action was the worst the party has witnessed in its 98-year history and amounted to a physical attack on ANC leaders.
“Not even those Africanists who were furious enough to break away to form the PAC did something like this,” a senior leader said. “We can’t have the league holding the party to ransom like this.”
The ANC Veterans League called for the league members to be expelled immediately, but ANC leaders felt this was too harsh.
The league, for its part, was said to have tried unsuccessfully to apologise for the attack.
ANCYL spokeswoman Magdalene Moonsamy, however, denied the league had stormed the stage or had apologised.
“There was no way in which it was a storming. Malema and league delegates approached the stage to speak to the chair of the session, which was (ANC policy head and Justice Minister) Jeff Radebe,” she said.
This was to clarify that the decisions adopted by branch delegates in the commission, which sat on Wednesday, were properly contained in the gathering’s declaration, she said.
She said the league left the meeting “in high spirits because it was a major victory”. She said it was “historic” for the ANC to adopt an issue pushed by the league.
ANC secretary-general Gwede Mantashe could not be reached for comment, but the chairman of the ANC’s disciplinary committee and Deputy Science and Technology Minister, Derek Hanekom, said he had not been informed about any possible charges. - Saturday Star