|18. September 2011
Malema hearing postponed to October
A disciplinary hearing that could decide the political fate of firebrand Julius Malema has been postponed until October, the African National Congress (ANC) said.
In a brief statement issued late on Saturday night, the ANC said proceedings had been put off until October 6 "due to the unavailability of the parties".
It did not elaborate or say which parties were unavailable but said Malema, the leader of the ANC Youth League, would call more witnesses at that time and that final arguments would be made on October 8.
Malema, named this week by Forbes magazine as one of the most powerful men in Africa, faces suspension or expulsion from the ANC if found guilty of a number of charges including bringing the ruling party into disrepute. Malema has rattled investors with his calls to nationalise mines and his declaration of "economic war" on the white minority.
The ANC disciplinary committee hearing is a high stakes gamble for Malema, who could see his political career derailed, as well as for President Jacob Zuma, who could face trouble if his adversary and party power-broker Malema is exonerated.
Malema, whose populist policies resonate with the poor black majority, once said he would "kill" for Zuma. But he now seems intent on ousting him in favour of ANC stalwarts who will support his drastic economic vision for South Africa that includes seizing white-owned farmland.
Malema is facing a separate police investigation into his finances including a suspected slush fund he uses to pay for a lavish lifestyle. The Mail & Guardian reported on Friday that moves were being made to undermine Malema's support in the provinces. It is a back-up plan to weaken him should he survive the disciplinary hearing, say ANC insiders.
The M&G has learnt from ANC national executive committee (NEC) members and from provincial leaders of the ANC and the youth league in Limpopo and North West that a rebellion is brewing against Malema.
Strategies to weaken Malema include: disciplining his supporters over the violent protest in support of him in Johannesburg; using his own allies, who are known to have ambitions regarding the leadership of the youth league, to neutralise him; and persuading rank-and-file supporters to jump ship before Malema takes them down.
In addition, the youth league claimed last week that its members were being interrogated by unknown people calling themselves intelligence operatives.
At least four of the league's NEC members are said to be prepared to "stab him in the back" should the opportunity arise. Their names are known to the M&G and two of the four are prominent Malema allies.
A government official closely linked to the Malema-led campaign to install Sports Minister Fikile Mbalula as the ANC's next secretary general said that Malema's allies, who are suspected of lobbying against him in the tense youth league leadership race in June, are being watched closely.
"You have these people who are closer to the president but are not necessarily Julius's people; they are their own people," said the official. "They see themselves as senior to many people in the league and want to lead."