Zuma clears big hurdle on road to Mangaung

2012-02-04 20:37

President Jacob Zuma’s bid for a second term as ANC leader at Mangaung in December seems to be safer than ever after the voice of his loudest critic, ANC Youth League leader Julius Malema, was silenced yesterday.

The ANC is set to decide over the next few days whether Malema will have to vacate his position immediately, or be given a 14-day stay of execution while arguments in mitigation of his five-year suspension are being heard.

He has one more chance to appeal if the ANC decides to lengthen his sentence.

Malema’s suspension from the party, though, is certain.

His second conviction for sowing division in the party was upheld, and this carries an automatic suspension, according to a 2010 plea bargain.

In stark contrast to when his hearing began in August, no supporters turned up in front of Luthuli House yesterday when Malema and five other league leaders came to hear their fate.

Once stripped of his league presidency, Malema will be deprived of an important platform to wage a public campaign against Zuma.

In his home province of Limpopo, Malema’s money taps have already been closed after the national government took control of the province’s finances and the issuing of tenders in December.

His support base could be weakened further if rumours from the province are true that the premier, Cassel Mathale, is set to be sacked.

This week Cosatu-affiliated unions were setting the stage for this when they protested on Friday, asking for Mathale to resign on the basis that he had allegedly mismanaged the province’s finances.

Forensic investigators have moved into Limpopo after the national government’s ­takeover of the province’s finances, and Malema could face criminal prosecution if reports of his interference in the awarding of tenders turns out to be true.

As for the league, it now seems unlikely to be able to unite around a single candidate or faction in the run-up to Mangaung.

Even its favourite candidate for secretary-general, Fikile Mbalula, is no longer guaranteed to unseat incumbent secretary-general Gwede Mantashe.

In the aftermath of the appeal committee’s ruling, the league may find itself consumed by its internal succession battles, which are not likely to be resolved until a replacement for Malema is found.

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