South Africa’s governing ANC has suspended youth leader Julius Malema from the party for five years. He was found guilty of bringing the party into disrepute and asked to step down as youth league president. Once a close ally of President Jacob Zuma, Mr Malema has become one of his strongest critics, accusing him of ignoring poor South Africans who helped bring him to power in 2009. The BBC’s Milton Nkosi says the verdict boosts Mr Zuma’s re-election bid. Mr Malema wants Mr Zuma replaced as party leader ahead of the 2014 elections, but our correspondent says it is now difficult to see how Mr Malema can affect the ANC leadership contest next year.
Mr Malema has said he will appeal against the ANC’s decision to suspend him, reports eTV news. Mr Malema has 14 days to appeal, but was already suspended for his statements on Zimbabwe and so must vacate his position as Youth League leader immediately. After Mr Malema’s suspension, an ANC spokesperson said: “Disciplinary procedures are not meant to end anybody’s political career, they are meant to correct behaviour.”
The African National Congress finds itself at a crossroads on the eve of its centenary celebrations which are due to start in January next year. Derek Hanekom, the chairman of the ANC disciplinary committee, was very clear when he handed down the sentence Malema’s violations were “unacceptable and serious”.
What the ruling party has done with this ruling is to draw a line in the sand. Africa’s oldest liberation movement is desperate to demonstrate that it’s not in a tail-wagging-the-dog situation in its relationship with its youth wing. This is in many ways Jacob Zuma’s victory in this long and bruising fight. But the question remains – will Malema’s suspension save President Zuma from his detractors within the broader structures of the ANC? They want to see him vacate the top job come next year when the party holds its leadership election.