League leaders from all the provinces except the Western Cape, which has also earlier indicated its support for Malema, addressed a press conference in Johannesburg this morning saying they will continue to fight even if the young firebrand’s expulsion is upheld.
They were reporting back from a special league national executive meeting called yesterday to discuss Malema's expulsion as ANC member and youth league president by the ANC's national disciplinary committee last Wednesday for sowing division in the party.
Malema has 14 days to appeal and the league has indicated that he would do so.
League deputy president Ronald Lamola read a statement saying only the league’s structures could remove Malema as president.
“It must never be easy to remove a president of the ANC Youth League, particularly a president who was elected uncontested by the membership of the ANC Youth League,” it read.
Looking confident, but leaving speaking entirely to the leaders around him, Malema sat in the middle of the table next to league treasurer-general Pule Mabe, who, according to a report on SABC yesterday, had a vote of no confidence passed in him by the ANCYL NEC.
However, Mabe read his own statement in which he expressed his commitment to the struggle for economic freedom, as led by Malema.
Mabe, who has been reported as having ambitions to succeed Malema, and who hasn’t been seen sharing public stages with Malema in recent months, said: "Opportunists who are using my name to divide the ANCYL should from now on stop their activities because they do not help in the struggle for economic freedom in our lifetime."
All the leaders from the provinces present, a mix of chairpersons and secretaries, called for a political solution to be achieved by talks between the ANC and its league.
All of them maintained that Malema was charged for making statements on Botswana and the leadership of the African Union on the league’s behalf.
Asked whether the league feared disbandment by its mother body should it continue its defiance, secretary general Sindiso Magaqa said the league was prepared for that.
Lamola denied that the league was defying the ANC by refusing to comply with the ruling that Malema should be removed as league leader should his expulsion be upheld or should he be suspended. "We are fighting for the future of the ANC," he said, adding that the ANC in history often resisted the league's new ideas.
The young leaders also said they would fight for Malema's reinstatement in the ANC's national executive committee as well as in the party's conference in Mangaung in December.
The conference cannot be "manipulated", they said, implying that there was political interference in the disciplinary process.
The atmosphere at the press conference in the Luthuli House foyer, which was packed with journalists, was jovial and relaxed, and leaders even found time to crack a few jokes. Magaqa said Malema's appeal and suspension didn't happen in heaven, meaning there was always the possibility of a political solution.