Julius Malema's biggest rival


He has an easy charm and a razor-sharp mind that makes him walk easily in the corridors of political power. But that’s not why his name is on everyone’s lips. They’re talking about Lehlogonolo Masoga because he’s the first serious contender to the throne of ANC Youth League president Julius Malema.

Masoga’s recent expulsion as Limpopo ANCYL leader caused a storm in political circles. He has challenged the national leader and members from other provinces agree with his insistence that Malema isn’t following proper election procedures.

Ironically Masoga (33) helped Malema to become president. They were once close despite being quite different in everything from their personalities and education to their looks.

“I’m still an ANC member,” he says of his expulsion for “sowing division and bringing the league into disrepute”. “I’m still the leader of the province and I will remain provincial leader until I hand over the position at the upcoming provincial conference in August.”

His eyes are partially hidden by black-rimmed glasses and he considers each question before answering. But Masoga doesn’t hold back when he explains he shouldn’t have been expelled for staging a walk-out during the ANCYL provincial election conference in April.

“I have now left it up to the ANC to decide my future,” says the man who has dedicated nearly two decades of his life to the party.

Masoga can’t believe his old friend has stabbed him in the back in this way. They met in 1995 when Malema was in high school and leader of the Congress of South African Students (Cosas) and Masoga was leader of the South African Student Congress (Sasco).

He doesn’t want to be drawn into more talk of his friendship with Malema but he was once fiercely loyal to the youth league president.

Interestingly, Masoga’s expulsion has exposed just how many enemies Malema has these days. The youth league president no longer has the blanket support of the organisation’s members.

“It’s difficult to say who has more power in the league,” political analyst Aubrey Matshiqi says. “But it’s hard for Masoga to fight a leadership battle from the outside and Malema knows it.”

Masoga’s father, Mphela, nurtured his interest in politics from the time he was a little boy. “He inspired me to join the ANC so I could serve the masses.”

But Masoga seems almost reluctant to enter the race for president of the youth league. “My interests are in Limpopo as provincial leader,” he says. “I’m a just a humble herdboy. “I have no problems with Malema; I just want things to be done properly and see procedures followed. That’s good politics.”

Read the full article in the YOU of 5 August 2010

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