ANC Disciplinary Hearing – Julius Malema

Julius Malema’s (see May 21 and July 29 blogs) disciplinary hearing began on August 31st at Luthuli House in Johannesburg. The building houses ANC headquarters and is named after ANC revolutionary Albert Luthuli who won the 1960 Nobel Peace Prize.

Malema, ANCYL spokesman Floyd Shivambu, Deputy President Ronald Lamola, Secretary-General Sindiso Magaqa, Deputy Kenetswe Mosenogi, and Treasurer-General Pule Mabe face charges of misconduct and “bringing the ANC into disrepute and sowing divisions in ANC ranks”. If the hearing conducted by a panel of senior ANC members finds Malema guilty of these offenses, he could be expelled from the party and find his political career in ruins.

The day the disciplinary hearing began Malema’s supporters ran wild in the streets of Johannesburg’s city centre. They threw broken bricks at police and journalists and burned t-shirts with images of Jacob Zuma and the ANC flag. Several journalists were hit by rocks and one police officer was hospitalized. After the violence occurred, Malema asked his supporters to exercise “restraint” and not attack journalists or police.

Malema lost his first battle against the misconduct charges when his lawyers failed to get dismissal of three ANC members on the panel reviewing his case. Malema’s lawyers argued for their dismissal on grounds that the three opposed Malema’s views on nationalization of mines and expropriation of land without compensation. Malema is popular with South Africa’s poor black majority, especially the youth, and as a future ANC leader he calls for state takeover of mines and white-owned farms.

Because of the disruption to people who work in the city centre, ANC leaders discussed a change of venue for Malema’s disciplinary hearing but later recanted. On September 2nd the ANC rejected Malema’s request to drop all disciplinary charges against him.

If Malema is exonerated, Jacob Zuma could be fighting for political survival during an ANC meeting in late 2012 when the party elects its leaders. If the ANC expels Malema, Zuma is in a stronger position for re-election. If Malema remains a member of the ANC and supports Zuma’s rivals, it could go the other way.

Malema’s regular criticism of Zuma pushed the ANC to take action against him. Many think Malema went too far when his Youth League called for overthrow of the elected government of South Africa’s neighbor and ally, Botswana. ANC leaders say the charges against Malema relate to last month’s comments about Botswana, Malema’s description of whites as “criminals”, and other statements that undermine Zuma’s leadership. In another ANC disciplinary hearing last year Malema was found guilty of criticizing Zuma. Expelling Malema from the ANC might silence his calls for nationalization but will it also anger his supporters? “Economists say nationalization would bankrupt the state — it would cost South Africa about twice the annual national budget to buy out the mining firms.”

Zuma is hoping for re-election at the ANC party polls in 2012 and wants to run for a second term as president in the 2014 South African national elections. The ANC Youth League would like to see Zuma replaced by Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe.

Despite Malema’s popularity with impoverished blacks, he is known for his lavish life style. He lives in the up-market Johannesburg neighborhood of Sandton. His wealth became the subject of a police investigation after a local Johannesburg newspaper reported he was the beneficiary of a trust fund that allegedly received kickbacks from businesses that won valuable government tenders (see July 29th blog).

On September 3 the ANC adjourned the disciplinary hearing against Malema until Sunday, September 11th.

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