Malema’s disciplinary: What will happen now? To soon to write the youth leader’s obituary | by Amandla! Editorial staff

by Feb 14, 2012Magazine

Anyone interested in South Africa will be asking: What is the political future of Malema if he does not appeal his five-year suspension from the ANC? What is the future of the ANC Youth League, and what is the future of the ANC?
‘A week is a long time in politics,’ former leader of the British Labour Party, Harold Wilson, once said. That is very true for South Africa’s Alliance politics given its factional struggles and divisions. Nevertheless, it is possible to suggest some likely scenarios following Malema’s suspension.
Those writing him off should be more cautious. Karima Brown composed Malema’s political obituary in the Southern African Report, saying that his suspension ‘not only brings Malema’s career to a grinding halt (and with it the challenge he has led against a second term for Jacob Zuma); it also delivers massive collateral damage to those in the ANC who have encouraged and supported him in mounting his challenge.’ It was Mark Twain who said ‘the reports of my death are greatly exaggerated’. Malema is signalling the same with his message, ‘the gloves are off’. There is absolutely no doubt that Malema’s suspension is a substantial blow to the Youth League leader and to those factions that are campaigning for ‘regime change’ in the ANC. However, his removal from the position of president of the ANCYL will dent his influence but not undermine it. He retains mass support among township youth and other marginalised layers and is still an important player in the build-up to the ANC 2012 Mangaung Conference. He is a powerful figure in his own right, having been brought into Zuma’s inner circle both in the struggle against Mbeki and in the post-Polokwane period. He is backed by senior leaders in the ANC who gave him licence to develop a radical profile and rhetoric. This has turned the ANCYL into the most dynamic structure in the ANC, providing troops for its branch structures. During the recent ANCYL Congress – where he was elected unopposed – he signalled that the strategy of the Youth League was to determine voting numbers by positioning themselves strategically at branch, district and provincial level. In this they have contested the space and methods of the SACP that systematically used the post-Mbeki space to strengthen its support base in the ANC.

Malema and the Youth League have become an important and useful instrument of nationalist and other forces in the ANC wanting to roll back the SACP’s powerful influence in the Zuma-led ANC.

Already in October 2009 NEC member Billy Masetlha railed publically: ‘I will have a problem with someone trying to impose a communist manifesto on the ANC. We fired a lot of [comrades] in the past who wanted to do the same thing.’ He went on to warn Zuma that if he did not take a firm stand on the perceived increase in the SACP’s influence, ANC members would revolt against him as they had against his predecessor, Thabo Mbeki.

The struggle for position in the ANC is not just about good jobs but also about tenderpreneurship and enormous wealth gains. Malema and the ANCYL have always been influential in positioning for state contracts and tenders. As recent investigations reveal, Malema’s personal wealth has been based on the receipt of government tenders. His suspension will limit his influence in the awarding of tenders, but he is still influential in determining the awarding of lucrative tenders in Limpopo without occupying any official position in the government.

Malema and company are not going to idly sit and see their power, influence and access to wealth stripped by an ANC National Disciplinary Committee. Apart from appealing the suspensions, mobilising supporters on the NEC and mobilising support within ANC structures, they will emulate Zuma and mobilise on the basis of a political conspiracy. But do they have the numbers? This is far from clear and will be determined by other battles in the Alliance and its structures. The suspended Youth League leaders will have an increasingly divided ANC to play in where personal – rather than political – differences often determine outcomes.

Lost in all the attention given to Malema is the chilling verdict against one of his co-accused, the YL’s secretary-general: it is now a serious disciplinary offence for any ANC member publicly to criticise any member of the government. Saying that a minister is pleasing ‘imperialists’ can get one suspended for 18 months.

At this stage, things look good for Zuma and a second term. The same coalition of forces necessary to win the Mangaung Conference that were built on the road to Polokwane is not there for Malema and those in the ANC wanting to mount a challenge to the Zuma leadership.

However, a year is far longer than a week. Much water will flow under the proverbial bridge before we get to Mangaung.

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