Friday, November 11, 2011
Friday, 11 November 2011 00:00
SOUTH AFRICA'S ruling African National Congress yesterday suspended its firebrand Youth League president, Cde Julius Malema, for five years after finding him guilty of sowing division in the party.
The league's spokesperson Cde Floyd Shivambu was also suspended for three years for bringing the party into disrepute by making a statement about the Botswana leadership and for swearing at a journalist.
But, Cde Malema said he would appeal against the verdict within 14 days as outlined in the ruling. He can contest the outcome to the ANC's national executive committee headed by party president Cde Jacob Zuma.
Announcing the verdict, Mr Derek Hanekom, head of the ANC disciplinary panel, said Cde Malema had been found guilty of sowing serious divisions in the party and of bringing the 99-year-old liberation movement into disrepute.
"Ill-discipline is not a cure for frustration," Mr Hanekom said at a news conference.
"The respondent shall vacate his position as the president of the ANC Youth League."
Cde Malema was convicted of disrupting an ANC national executive meeting and of bringing the party into disrepute by calling for "regime change" in Botswana.
His misconduct had "a negative impact on international and inter-state relations and would be prejudicial to South Africa as a whole", Mr Hanekom said.
"Such disobedience undermined the effectiveness of the ANC."
Cde Malema was, however, absolved of sowing racism by calling for resettling white-owned farms with blacks, an effort the government has already undertaken to redress apartheid-era injustices.
Reacting to the ruling, Cde Malema said he would appeal against the suspension, saying "the gloves were off and it was time to confront and fight the enemy".
"I know that I have been found guilty and that I have been suspended for five years --- a decision that I am going to appeal," he told supporters in Polokwane where he had just finished writing a political science examination with the University of South Africa.
"So, comrades we must respect those internal processes. We are not intimidated by any outcome, we remain resolute, we will continue to fight moving forward because the ANC is our home. We have no other home outside the ANC,'' he said.
Cde Malema was not in Johannesburg when the suspension was announced as he was writing an examination at the Polokwane campus of the University of South Africa (Unisa).
Streets surrounding the ANC headquarters in downtown Johannesburg were closed for the verdict, with heavy police patrols to prevent any outbreak of the violence that marred the opening of Cde Malema's hearings.
Unless the suspension is reduced on appeal, the decision means that Cde Malema (30) would be too old to return as the head of the Youth League if he returns to the party in five years.
Four other top Youth League officials, deputy president Ronald Lamola, treasurer-general Pule Mabe, secretary-general Sindiso Magaqa and deputy secretary-general Kenetswe Mosenogi, were found guilty on various charges.
They were granted suspended sentences, meaning they retain their memberships unless they are convicted of new offences.
The ANCYL said it had already found an argument to appeal against the suspension of its leaders.
Not being able to present mitigating circumstances ahead of the suspensions would be a good enough ground for appeal, said secretary-general Mr Sindiso Maqaga.
Mr Maqaga said the organisation stood by its leadership and by its call for a transfer of wealth in South Africa.
"The ANCYL leadership and entire membership remain unshaken and resolute in its call for the eventual transfer of wealth from minority hands to the majority of our people," said Mr Maqaga.
"The ANCYL has never had any illusion that its radical call for ‘Economic Freedom In Our Lifetime' will be smooth and without hurdles."
People outside the ANC headquarters at Luthuli House where the suspension was announced had mixed reactions.
"It's a sad day. I'm so sad," said Johannes Ngcolomba (30) who donned a beret with the ANC logo. We thought they will give him a warning."
Among those who spoke in his support at the disciplinary hearing were millionaire housing minister and businessman Tokyo Sexwale, Nelson Mandela's former wife Winnie, now an MP, and Fikile Mbalula, a former youth league leader who is now Sports Minister. Jimmy Simbini (40) felt Cde Malema's five-year suspension would not silence the youth league.
"They are very vocal. His (Cde Malema's) utterances touched many lives. They know when he returns he will be too old to join the youth league," he said.
"I'm sure there are comrades that are as politically conscious as Malema. I am very disappointed because South Africa needs people like Malema."
Attorney James Sithole drove from Limpopo to witness the verdict, informing his clients he would not be working a full day as it was a matter of national interest.
"I'm very happy with the result. The damage he has already done to South Africa was too much. He damaged the ANC and government," he said.
Some analysts said the ANC ruling had effectively ended Cde Malema's political career, but others were of the opinion that the suspension would actually boost his political profile as he would be seen as a victim of a party that had strayed from the Freedom Charter.
Cde Malema also faces a corruption investigation by South African police in connection with government contracts in his home province of Limpopo.
- Reuters/AFP/Sapa/ The Globe and Mail/East Coast Radio/Herald Reporter.