* Latest measures against Malema escalate party infighting
* Last week Malema called Zuma government a 'dictatorship'
* Malema's future crucial in the run for ANC leadership
(Adds details, quotes, byline)
By Jon Herskovitz
JOHANNESBURG, April 4 South Africa's ruling ANC
said on Wednesday it had temporarily removed party rebel Julius
Malema from his role as president of its Youth League and was
barring him from attending party meetings.
The move escalates rare public infighting at the country's
most powerful party, punishing Malema days after he had called
President Jacob Zuma's government a "dictatorship".
"The temporary and immediate suspension of comrade Malema
will come into effect on Wednesday, 4 April," an ANC
disciplinary panel said in a statement.
The African National Congress had already expelled Malema
from its ranks for breaking party rules but, pending an appeal,
had allowed him to stay in his post, address ANC rallies and
If Malema loses his appeal, he will be definitively expelled
from the party. He is scheduled to have an appeal hearing next
Malema, a skilled public speaker and a populist whose calls
for the nationalisation of mines in the resource-rich country
have unnerved investors, has stepped up his criticism of Zuma.
He also advocates seizing white-owned farmland as part of his
vision for Africa's biggest economy.
ROAD TO LEADERSHIP
On Tuesday, the ANC's top brass was united in chastising
Malema for his "dictatorship" comment, which Secretary-General
Gwede Mantashe called "crude", "disrespectful",
"incomprehensible" and "insulting".
If Malema is definitively expelled, Zuma would have a clear
path to win a second term as ANC leader in party elections later
this year. The leader of the ANC is virtually assured of victory
in presidential elections in 2014 given the party's dominance in
South African politics.
At 31, Malema is considered too young to directly challenge
Zuma for leadership but his populist strength makes him a party
The verbal sparring is unusual for the ANC, which has ruled
since the end of the white-minority apartheid government in 1994
and turned 100 this year.
The former liberation movement strives to keep its internal
rifts private and punishes those who speak out against the party
or its members.
Malema was originally found guilty of sowing divisions in
the ANC and hurting the party's reputation by calling for the
overthrow of the elected government of neighbouring Botswana.
Even if Malema is removed, analysts say the ANC will still
face criticism that it is not doing enough to help the country's
poor black majority and is turning a blind eye to corruption
that is eating away at welfare spending.
(Editing by Alessandra Rizzo)