Could Mangaung be the end of the road for Juju?

Malema’s political career looks just about finished as the potential for an unlikely return to the ruling party diminishes in the run up to the Mangaung electoral conference.

The controversial youth leader’s future was already looking bleak after his expulsion from the ruling party was ratified by the ANC’s disciplinary appeals committee in late April, but events in the past fortnight have pushed him further into the political wilderness.

ANC secretary general Gwede Mantashe on Tuesday said that while Malema’s ejection from the ANC could be challenged at the upcoming conference, it would have to be led by delegates in Mangaung.

“I can’t guarantee anything will be debated in Mangaung,” Mantashe told reporters in Johannesburg.

"Many things get discussed but it must be pushed from the floor and forwarded by delegates at the conference."

This flies in the face of Malema’s planned course of action to ensure his comeback – a constitutional challenge to his expulsion.

As per section 11.3 of the ruling party’s constitution, the conference is granted the power to “review, ratify, alter or rescind” any decision taken by the ANC or its constituent bodies. In order for this to be effected, it would involve tabling a motion to nullify all disciplinary charges against Malema to voting delegates at the conference.

But this course of action was always going to be risky, as it would have relied on an overwhelming branch level measure of support for his reinstatement.

For a motion to even be discussed, the over 4000 delegates from ANC branches around the country would have to allow it space to be debated at the conference. And based on the latest figures to emerge from provincial branch nominations ahead of Mangaung, Zuma is streets ahead of his would-be challenger, Kgalema Motlanthe.

Zuma has garnered overwhelming support from branches in KwaZulu-Natal, the Eastern Cape, Mpumalanga, the Free State, the North West and Northern Cape, following their respective provincial nomination conferences.

Motlanthe has gained support from only the majority of branches in Gauteng, while he and Zuma are tied closely in the Western Cape and Limpopo, whose conferences were marked by violence and disagreements that led to the conferences being called off.

The ANC gave the two provinces until later this week to conclude their nomination conferences, with no indication that they will swing in either’s favour.

Moreover, the ANC Veterans' League and the party's women's league are also backing Zuma – while the youth league stands as the lone voice calling for change among the leagues at Mangaung after throwing their lot in with the current deputy president.

Zuma has thus trounced Motlanthe and – barring any major political realignment within the ANC over the next two weeks – will more than likely retain his position as ANC president.

This all translates into an unlikely scenario for Malema’s political survival.

Even if the struggle is taken up by his former comrades in the youth league, they too would be hesitant to throw their hat in with a persona non grata.

Malema is currently embroiled in a spat with acting league president Ronald Lamola, which divided the league over whether to support Malema.

Sparked by Lamola’s orders that no league member in any official capacity should publicly support Malema during the fraud and corruption trial he faces on allegations of tender rigging in Limpopo, he labelled his former deputy a "sellout" and a "traitor".

It earned Malema a stern rebuke from the league in which they said he “should be ashamed” and his actions were “not befitting the stature with which young people regard the league".

The dust is yet to settle on the squabble and there has been no official communicationfrom the league to confirm their support for Malema since the confrontation.

With a little over two weeks until the Mangaung conference, the window of opportunity for Malema is getting smaller, and it is becoming clear that support for his cause is also waning.

It will take a turnaround of momentous proportions for the ever controversial Malema to emerge from Mangaung with any hope of a bright political future.

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