Analysts: Malema's chances bleak
Cape Town - Julius Malema may take his battle with the ANC leadership all the way to the party's conference in Mangaung, but the youth league's defiance of President Jacob Zuma has put him in a tighter corner than ever.
Following his expulsion from the party on Wednesday, Malema has a fortnight to appeal the sentence to the ANC's National Disciplinary Committee of Appeal (NDCA), headed by Cyril Ramaphosa.
Political analyst Steven Friedman said it was a foregone conclusion that Malema would appeal, but it should not be assumed that the higher body would simply rubberstamp the penalty imposed by the National Disciplinary Committee (NDC).
"He will appeal, but I don't think what happens then is a formality. It should not be expected that they would simply confirm the current verdict," he said on Thursday.
Friedman predicted that the appeal committee would not absolve the ANC youth league leader, but it could decide to suspend him, in line with the original sentence imposed by the disciplinary committee last year.
"They are not going to say it has all been a dreadful mistake. But it is not completely off the wall that they will say let's reduce this.
"The ANC will get the best of both worlds. It will be seen to discipline him, but not to be totally unyielding and harsh."
Friedman said the youth league's disruption of a speech by President Jacob Zuma in Cape Town had cost Malema support from those opposing Zuma in the ANC's factional battle.
His supporters sang "Zuma, where's Juju? We are incomplete" while the president spoke, drawing a stern warning from him that the party would address ill-discipline in its ranks.
"Last week has surely weakened the position of people who would like to defend him," Friedman said.
Malema's options do not end with the appeal process. He could still ask the ANC's national executive committee to review the matter and if that fails, take it to the conference floor in Mangaung in December in what would be an unprecedented move in the party's 100-year history.
The matter has already dragged on since November, when he was found guilty by the disciplinary committee of bringing the ANC into disrepute and sowing division in its ranks and suspended from the party for five years.
On February 4, the appeal committee upheld the finding but instructed the lower panel to hear arguments in mitigation or aggravation of sentence.
Malema's subsequent comments that only the youth league had the power to oust its leaders did him no favours.
On Wednesday night, that committee pronounced the ultimate penalty after describing Malema as a repeat offender who had failed to show remorse or to respect the disciplinary structures of the organisation.
"He (Malema) said that the disciplinary proceedings will come to an end but the real battle will start after that when the ANC has to persuade the youth," the committee said.
"In the NDC's view, this evidence is indicative of comrade Malema's unrepentant attitude and non-acceptance of the findings of the disciplinary machinery of the ANC, particularly the NDCA.
"However, Comrade Malema's refusal to accept the findings of the NDCA, which confirm the findings of the NDC, is clearly untenable."
Malema was found guilty of portraying the ANC government and its leadership under Zuma in a negative light, and for statements about creating regime change in Botswana, at an ANCYL press conference on July 31, 2011.
Malema was also found guilty of propagating racism or political intolerance for his utterances, at an election rally in Galeshewe, Kimberley in May 2011, saying that whites should be treated as criminals for stealing land from blacks.
During his mitigation hearing, Malema said the charges against him were "politically motivated", an argument which both the NDC and the appeal committee rejected.