ANC’s decision to axe Malema a defining moment – analysts

2011-11-10 14:35

Analysts were impressed today by the governing ANC’s “defining” move to axe youth league leader Julius Malema and senior members of his organisation.

“The ANC now have the opportunity to turn the clock back, to put the genie back in the bottle,” said political analyst Susan Booysen.

Economist Chris Hart said: “It looks like a very defining moment.”

Judith February, head of Idasa’s political monitoring unit, said most people had expected some “lightly, lightly” approach from the ANC’s disciplinary committee.

“This sends a strong message around issues of discipline, obviously in the context of the larger democratic context of South Africa.”

Malema, his spokesperson Floyd Shivambu and the ANC Youth League’s top officials were sanctioned today to various periods of suspension for breaching rules of the ruling party’s Constitution.

Malema and Shivambu were suspended from the ANC Youth League for five years and three years, respectively.

They were ordered to vacate their positions for bringing the party into disrepute and for sowing divisions.

Booysen said the disciplinary measures were “probably overdue”.

“From around 2005 that has been the way we do politics in South Africa,” she said.

“It was probably overdue, but then it was also tolerated for such a long time.”

Booysen said the ruling also brought clarity to relations between the ANC and the youth league, and the ANC and its tripartite alliance partners, Cosatu and the SA Communist Party.

People with political aspirations would have to be careful, she said.

Hart saw the committee’s pronouncements as the first steps towards political coherence in the ruling party.

The youth league appeared to be behaving like an opposition party, making it look as though there was a level of political incoherence in the ANC.

The committee’s decision would ultimately be good for the ANC because it would get its coherence back, Hart said.

There had been a huge amount of uncertainty regarding nationalisation, with the debate driven by the youth league, said Hart who is chief strategist at Investment Solutions.

The rand firmed slightly at the time of the announcement, but this probably had more to do with a possible resolution of the Italian financial crisis than the Malema effect.

Despite all the “political material”, said Hart, political utterances in South Africa seemed to be disconnected from the financial markets.

They did, however, have effects in the long term on potential investors.

February said the violent protests in Johannesburg in August, when the disciplinary hearings started, would have made many people in the ANC think things had gone too far.

President Jacob Zuma would also be emboldened by the decision.

“The ANC occupies such an important space in our political life that it is an important message to send out that that kind of behaviour would not be tolerated.”

However, she cautioned against just focusing on an individual such as Malema.

“It is an important and serious step by the disciplinary committee, but it doesn’t change the fact that there are divisions in the ANC ... a constant tussle between those who understand the constitutional project, and a conservative right wing in the ANC who accumulate wealth,” February said.

“Julius Malema is one figure in a panoply of figures. We can’t look at an individual in isolation.”

The parties have 14 days to appeal the findings.

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