Published Thursday, 01 March 2012
An audacious youth leader once tipped as a future president of South Africa has been expelled from the governing African National Congress (ANC).
Julius Malema, president of the ANC youth league, had already been suspended for five years for sowing divisions and bringing the party into disrepute.
His appeal against the sentence backfired on Wednesday when, instead of reducing it, the ANC disciplinary committee increased it to expulsion.
The committee described Malema as a "repeat offender" who had been reprimanded in 2010 and shown no remorse. It said: "He has now been found guilty of two serious offences in under two years …; has shown no remorse; is not prepared to be disciplined by the ANC and is not prepared to respect the disciplinary machinery of the organisation."
His expulsion from the parent body meant his membership and presidency of the youth league would also end, the committee added.
The announcement was delayed for hours because Malema did not present himself at ANC headquarters in Johannesburg to hear his fate before it was released to the public, according to South African media reports.
Around 500 supporters of Malema gathered outside his house in Seshego in Limpopo province on Wednesday night, the eNews channel said.
His irreverant behaviour since the disciplinary process began appears to have cost him dear. He has launched public attacks on the South African and ANC president, Jacob Zuma, in all but name.
At rallies he has reportedly made the gesture of cupping his hand and extending his fingers to mimic a shower head – a satirical dig at Zuma, who infamously once said he took a shower after having sex with an HIV-positive woman.
It was therefore widely expected that prosecutors at the ANC hearing would press for Malema to receive the ultimate sanction.
With each twist in the disciplinary process, there has been confusion as to whether Malema must step down immediately, losing access to his office at the ANC headquarters, Luthuli House. Even now, he has two weeks to lodge an appeal with another committee, and can then go to the party's top decision-making body.
The youth league said earlier on Wednesday that it would have no comment on the announcement. It has previously indicated it will not accept the verdict and will keep Malema in office until his term expires in 2014.
Malema joined the ANC aged nine and has become arguably South Africa's most divisive politician. He once threw a BBC journalist out of a press conference, yelling: "Bloody agent!" He cast himself as a champion of the poor, a radical voice for the nationalisation of mines and seizure of white-owned land.
Malema was also credited with helping Zuma come to power in 2009 before turning against him.
The youth leader was suspended in November on charges that included comparing Zuma unfavourably to his predecessor, Thabo Mbeki, for failing to promote the "African agenda". He was also found guilty of calling for regime change in neighbouring Botswana, seen as a diplomatic gaffe.
Malema is also facing a criminal probe into his finances and has reportedly complained that his lawyers are white.
The latest verdict, while nudging Malema closer to the abyss, appears to shore up Zuma's position. He faces an elective conference later this year where Malema had been expected to play kingmaker.
guardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media 2012