Expelled from the ANC after showing no remorse for sowing division within the party, Malema says the battle to clear his name is far from over.
Gunshots rang out in the night outside the house where ANC Youth League leader Julius Malema was staying after his expulsion from the ruling party on Wednesday.
Malema’s detractors went on to drive around Seshego in the early hours of Thursday, taunting his supporters by waving around a “tombstone” fashioned from a cardboard box, which bore the words: “RIP Julius, Dictator.”
Holding the tombstone on the back of a bakkie, they celebrated Malema’s expulsion from the ANC by singing, “The end of the dictator” in Sepedi and English.
But those of Malema’s opponents who would like to see the divisive youth leader lowered once and for all into his political grave will have to wait: he still has two weeks to appeal his expulsion from the ANC.
The ‘political’ solution
Even then—should his appeal fail—he may yet try to bulldoze his way back into political legitimacy: Malema’s expulsion is his punishment for sowing division within the party; to overturn this, he would have to unite the party behind him, either by having the party’s broader leadership in the national executive committee overrule the sanction, or—as a measure of last resort—by being absolved and reinstated at the insistance of delegates to the ANC’s elective conference in Mangaung later this year.
For either of the final two paths to succeed, Malema would require immense support from NEC members or branch delegates—support that he cannot be sure of, particularly in the wake of the strong message the ANC’s national disciplinary committee (NDC) sent when announcing his expulsion.
“The ANC constitution demands that discipline be enforced without exception,” the NDC’s chairperson, Derek Hanekom, said in the statement announcing Malema’s expulsion on Wednesday evening.
“The cumulative effect of comrade Malema’s past and present offences, coupled with his own evidence of lack of remorse and disrespect for the ANC constitution and its structures ... has left no room for the NDC to consider his misconduct as anything but extremely serious. If comrade Malema is not prepared to accept final decisions [of the disciplinary process], then the likelihood of him respecting the ANC constitution is remote.”
“As the president of an organ of the ANC responsible for mobilising the youth behind the ANC, this… in the view of the NDC, constitutes a threat and is tantamount to holding the ANC to ransom.”
In saying this, the NDC appears to be sending a message to the broader ANC membership: Anyone else who is not prepared to accept the final decisions of the NDC and the disciplinary appeals committee would be siding with Malema against the ANC’s structures, its processes, its constitution and its legitimacy.
This might be seen as a shot across the bows of the youth league, in particular, which has stated on several occasions that it would defy any ruling to remove Malema as its head.
How many of Malema’s supporters within the rest of the ruling party are prepared to be painted with this brush of defiance remains to be seen. It may of course not come to that, if he succeeds in his appeal to the NDC appeals committee (NDCA).
His legal representative, Dali Mpofu, told the Mail & Guardian that if an appeal was indeed lodged, part of the arguments against the NDC’s decision being upheld might be that it was issued with unseemly haste—violating the party’s own procedures.
“If they decide to violate that process then so be it. It is something we would certainly raise in an appeal if we decide to go that route,” Mpofu said on Wednesday.
Of course, Malema is not alone in his exile from the party. While their punishments are not quite as severe, the league’s spokesperson Floyd Shivambu and secretary general Sindiso Magaqa were suspended from the league for three years (although Magaqa’s suspension has itself been suspended—on condition he apologise to Public Enterprises Minister Malusi Gigaba, who he was found guilty of disrespecting by accusing him of “pleasing imperialists” after Gigaba said the nationalisation debate was hurting foreign investment in South Africa).
Shivambu was sanctioned for insulting a journalist and issuing a statement calling for regime change in Botswana.
For now, the trio are adamant that their battle is not over. Echoing the gunfire that warned away those who gathered around his grandmother’s house in the night, Malema met the morning media with militant defiance.
“I’m not a soldier who is prepared to fall in the battle,” SABC radio quoted him as saying on Thursday morning. “It is still too early [for my enemies to] celebrate, because the road ahead of us is going to be very long and needs men and women ... who are very strong.
“If you are weak, you are going to fall in the process. I will die with my boots on, I will die for what I believe in.”
Should it come to that, his opponents have made it clear that his political grave—complete with cardboard tombstone—is ready and waiting.
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