March will test Malema support - analysts
Johannesburg - The ANC Youth League's mass action this week could test the support base of its leader Julius Malema, analysts said on Wednesday.
Malema has denied the "economic freedom youth mass action" march from Johannesburg to Pretoria was meant to undermine the African National Congress, but not everyone agrees.
"What we have in this situation is someone like [Tokyo] Sexwale testing his support for next year," said political analyst Steven Friedman.
"If it [support for Malema] all goes wrong, he can very easily distance himself from it, and he won't get identified. But if it goes right, it will help him."
Sexwale has testified in Malema's defence at an ANC disciplinary hearing where Malema and other ANC Youth League leaders face charges of bringing the ruling party into disrepute.
Aubrey Matshiqi, political analyst at the Centre for Policy Studies, said he would not go as far as to say that this was a make-or-break week for Malema.
However, he said he did not doubt that the ANCYL marches was motivated by a multiplicity of political motivations.
Malema had taken his battle against the ruling party's leadership outside of the ANC, which could have implications on his strategy, said Matshiqi.
Political issues were being turned into national issues.
"The fact that the SACP [SA Communist Party] have called on people to boycott the marches has also turned it into a contest between the ANCYL and the SACP, and Blade Nzimande and Julius Malema," said Matshiqi.
"The size of the march will determine who has the most support, Nzimande or Malema."
Last week, Nzimande urged members of the ANCYL not to participate saying that the protest was being used to undermine the authority of the ANC and government.
"Do not allow yourselves to be used by people with agendas that are not in your interest," he said.
Malema has insisted that the ANC did not see the march as an attack on its top brass.
"The leadership doesn't see it like that and they say that nothing is wrong with the march, as long as it is successful and peaceful," he told reporters in Johannesburg this week.
The ANC said on Wednesday it supported the rights of the ANCYL to march for economic freedom.
Secretary general Gwede Mantashe told reporters in Johannesburg the march was not against the ANC government and it was not linking it to the party's 2012 elective conference.
Ebrahim Fakir, another political analyst, said he felt that Malema's political motivations were a side issue.
"This [the marches] being a test of support is probably true but what is the substance of the issues the ANC Youth League are talking about," he said.
"This may well be a test... in view of the succession battle but the real test is the test of the appetite of society and especially the wealthy, influential and the socially powerful sectors of society and what their appetite is for serious thinking and rethinking about an inclusive economy and a more transformed economy," said Fakir.
He said the ANCYL were standing for the right thing, but he did not think the nationalisation of mines and land expropriation without compensation would necessarily work.
Fakir said the youth league had missed the mark because there was no such thing as "economic freedom".
"You can't wake up tomorrow and decide you want a flat in Camps Bay [affluent area in Cape Town]... that is economic freedom and no one has that," said Fakir.
"We talking about economic empowerment... The issues are real and substantial and we need to look at it as that," he said.
"Yes, 2012 is the only game in town politically but if we just reduce everything to 2012 we are going to lose the real debate."
Support for the mass action has been divided.
The National Youth Development Agency, the Congress of SA Trade Unions, the SA Municipal Workers' Union, the SA Students' Congress, Congress of the People Youth Movement and National Union of Metalworkers of SA were supporting the ANCYL's march.
Not supporting the action, was lobby group AfriForum, the Young Communist League, the SA Communist Party and the Communication Workers Union.