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South Africa youth leader warns of ‘casualties’ in jobs war

The controversial leader of South Africa’s ruling party youth league warned Saturday of “casualties” in the fight for jobs and land, accusing the government of failing its people.

“This is war, and we should fight moving forward. There will be casualties, but I know that we are going to win,” African National Congress Youth League leader Julius Malema said on the eve of a disciplinary hearing that could boot him from the party.

On the occasion of the league’s 67th anniversary, Malema told about a thousand people gathered in a slum suburb of Johannesburg that a march was planned on the Johannesburg Stock Exchange for October 27, the birthday of anti-apartheid ANC leader Oliver Tambo.

“On OR Tambo’s birthday we are going to march to the Johannesburg Stock Exchange and take the battle to the monopoly capital,” he said.

“We will ask all the people with shares, to come and share with us. Then we will go to the Union Buildings (the seat of government in Pretoria) and sleep outside until our demands for jobs are met,” the youth leader was quoted by the Sapa news agency as saying.

“If we don’t do it now, those who are unemployed will stay that way forever.”

In remarks referring to white farmers who still control the majority of arable land in South Africa, he said: “They have stolen our land. They are criminals and must be treated like that. We want our land back and we want it for free.”

Malema, 30, is notorious for racially charged rhetoric and his refusal to tow the party line.

His calls to nationalise the country’s mines and redistribute profits to poor blacks have set the mining industry and international investors on edge.

The firebrand faces expulsion from the party if found guilty of “sowing dissent” and bringing the party into disrepute when he called for neighbouring Botswana’s President Ian Khama to be overthrown.

“If I am expelled, then I know I will die with my soul intact,” Malema said Saturday.

“Destroying the ANC Youth League is destroying the struggle for economic freedom.

“Our revolution is being undermined in small air-conditioned rooms.”

No party spokesman was available for comment Saturday.