Julius Malema's future uncertain
Johannesburg - Views differed this week on what would happen to ANC Youth League president Julius Malema if his five-year suspension from the ANC was upheld, or turned into an expulsion.
Political analyst Steven Friedman said Malema's backers were likely to abandon him, but Cape Town University politics lecturer Zwelethu Jolobe disagreed.
"Senior business and political people who have thus far backed him politically are unlikely to continue to do so should his suspension be upheld since he is then no longer of any use to them," said Friedman.
However, Jolobe believed Malema had substantial support from those people who believed the nationalisation of mines was important.
"As long as this is the main policy issue he’s going to punt, they will continue to support him. The position around nationalisation is his insurance policy, it guarantees him some level of support beyond the confines of the youth league," Jolobe said.
Malema, ANCYL spokesperson Floyd Shivambu, his deputy Ronald Lamola, secretary general Sindiso Magaqa, and two other officials were found guilty by the ANC's national disciplinary committee in November of bringing the ANC into disrepute and of sowing division in the party.
The ANC's appeals committee announced in February that attempts by Malema, Shivambu, Magaqa and three other ANCYL officials to have the guilty verdicts against them overturned had been dismissed.
The outcome of argument in mitigation and aggravation of their suspensions - ranging between 18 months and five years - was to be announced on Wednesday afternoon.
Jolobe said Malema had proved himself to be an effective "battering ram" and that his backers were likely to continue using him for this purpose.
He would, therefore, always retain a core level of support within the ANCYL and from those who wanted the nationalisation of mines.
Friedman said Malema and the ANCYL had been strategically "pushed" into the position of spearheading the proposal for nationalisation by a faction in the ANC.
It was not clear what this faction would do about the financial support it had given him.
"Mr Malema is 30 years old, he has no post-graduate degrees at all and he’s reputed to have R53 million in his bank account. Well where does the R53m come from? It’s not coming from tenders; it is coming from the people who tell him to do this," said Friedman.
The ANCYL did not write the document on the nationalisation of mines, said Friedman.
"It’s a proposal which is coming from politically-connected business people who are in the industry."
Friedman said one of two things could happen to Malema.
The first was that Malema could stand up and point out those senior ANC members who had funded him.
Of course, those members could then turn around and say: "So what?", said Friedman.
The second scenario was that if he "goes into the night" they might continue to look after him financially, for the next couple of years, to ensure his silence.
"My sense is that if Malema is suspended they'll just move on," said Friedman.
Jolobe said the politically-connected business people who thought the nationalisation of mines would benefit them would continue to support Malema whether publicly or discreetly.
The ANC had not come up with a solution to the policy issue of the nationalisation of mines or taken its position to the ANCYL, he said.
"This puts them [ANC] in a weak position to respond to the issues Malema is raising and so they have no ammunition to fight against him," he said.
Whether Malema was an ANCYL leader or not, he was still a strong character.
"In the end, even if he has to appeal, they [his backers] are going to fight with him and back him all the way," said Jolobe.
"All the evidence points to the fact that he is not going to go down without a good fight. His career is by no means over. Even if he has to vacate his office, he may just have to shout from a different roof top."
"I think it’s going to get a lot uglier and I don’t think the ANC leadership has handled this matter very well," Jolobe said.