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S.Africa’s ANC charges youth leader for sowing divisions

Published on 19/08/2011

South Africa's ruling African National Congress (ANC) Friday charged the firebrand leader of its youth wing, Julius Malema, with bringing the party into disrepute and sowing internal divisions.

“Comrade Julius Malema has been charged with various violations of the ANC Constitution, including bringing the ANC into disrepute through his utterances and statements on Botswana and sowing divisions in the ranks of the African National Congress,” the party said.

Malema risks suspension if found guilty, after he was ruled at fault on a similar charge last year, for his group’s call last month for regime change in neighbouring Botswana which it labelled a puppet of the United States.

“If the member is found guilty of a similar offence then clearly it would kick in,” disciplinary committee chair Derek Hanekom told SABC television news, saying the wording was “very clear”.

“The national disciplinary committee would then be required to ensure that it takes effect.”

The comments drew an unusually harsh response amid intensified open clashes with President Jacob Zuma and ANC top brass as the party readies to choose its presidential candidate next year.

“This insult and disrespect to the president, the government and the people of Botswana and a threat to destabilise and effect regime change in Botswana is a clear demonstration that the ANCYLs ill discipline has clearly crossed the political line,” said ANC spokesman Jackson Mthembu on August 1.

The ANC Youth League (ANCYL) said it would form a “Botswana Command Team” to unite the country’s opposition, and called Botswana “a security threat to Africa and always under constant puppetry of the United States”.

Malema was charged alongside league spokesman Floyd Shivambu despite an apology and withdrawal of the comments.

Last year, Malema was warned of suspension if he was again found guilty of provoking divisions within two years when he was slapped with a 10,000 rands ($1,400, 968 euros) fine and anger management classes for criticising Zuma.

“The manner in which the charges were delivered sends a message of a very confident Jacob Zuma,” political analyst Aubrey Matshiqi told radio’s Eyewitness News.

“If Julius Malema is not found guilty then the president will end up with egg on his face and that might tilt the balance of office against him,” he added.

The charges came as top party officials started a four day meeting with Zuma saying “the need for discipline within the ranks of the movement” would also be discussed.

Malema is also under increasing fire over his private wealth, with accusations of stashing kickbacks for oiling tender deals in a trust fund splashed over newspapers in recent weeks.

A company with ties to the outspoken leader is to be probed over contracts awarded in his home province of Limpopo, the office of the Public Protector office told AFP Friday.

Regarded as a belligerent buffoon by critics and a pro-poor champion by fans, the 30-year-old is no stranger to controversy and is pushing for the nationalisation of mines.

Along with last year’s guilty verdict, he was also told to apologise to Zuma — whose rise to the presidency he staunchly supported — for saying that he was worse than his predecessor Thabo Mbeki, who was pushed from office in 2008.

He also drew anger by breaking the party line on Zimbabwe, where Zuma is a mediator, singing a racially charged song about killing white farmers, and calling a BBC journalist a “bastard” and chasing him from a press conference.

Last year the Equality Court fined him 50,000 rand for saying that a woman who accused Zuma of rape, for which he was cleared, had a “nice time” as she had breakfast and asked for taxi money.

The latest hearing has been set down for end August and the two accused are entitled to defend themselves against the charges.