Tuesday, April 24, 2012

South Africa Ruling Party Upholds Move to Oust Youth Leader

April 24, 2012, 6:47 p.m. ET

South Africa Ruling Party Upholds Move to Oust Youth Leader


JOHANNESBURG—South Africa's ruling party Tuesday upheld its decision to expel divisive youth leader Julius Malema, a move that sidelines a fierce critic of the country's president.

In a late night announcement, a disciplinary committee rejected arguments by the youth league leader that he hadn't been given enough time to fight his case and instead said Mr. Malema has a "flawed" understanding of the party's constitution. The committee also denied allegations President Jacob Zuma controlled and influenced the process.

Mr. Malema was expelled at the end of February for bringing the party into disrepute and sowing divisions within it. The decision related to comments he made calling for regime change in neighboring Botswana, a prosperous and stable democracy. The ANC Youth League president was initially suspended from the party for five years but a disciplinary committee increased the punishment because it said Mr. Malema didn't show remorse.

Mr. Malema now is barred from speaking at ANC events or making public comments about the ANC. Local media also report Mr. Malema is being investigated for tax evasion. The South African Revenue Service said it couldn't comment on individual tax payer issues unless they go to court.

Mr. Malema made a name for himself calling for the government expropriation of white-owned land without compensation and mine nationalization.

Once a staunch supporter of President Jacob Zuma who would dance alongside the president at rallies, Mr. Malema became a sharp critic of Mr. Zuma after he failed to support the government takeover of mines. Mr. Malema equated Zuma's presidency to a dictatorship during a speech he made to university students at the end of March.

The criticism of President Zuma comes on the heals of a crucial December party conference to elect leaders of the ruling ANC. The conference precedes national elections in 2014. Local media are already speculating there will be challengers to President Jacob Zuma such as Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe.

Mr. Malema's expulsion comes amid much broader public criticism of ANC leadership. The discord within the party is coming at a cost to South Africa and its ability to attract foreign investors who could play a significant role in driving growth.

In April Standard & Poor's Ratings Services lowered its outlook for South Africa's sovereign debt to negative from stable. The ratings company said the conference might foreshadow policies hostile to investment.

South Africa is struggling to maintain its growth targets hampered by an unemployment rate around 24% and dogged by weak global economic conditions.


Write to Devon Maylie at devon.maylie@dowjones.com

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