JOHANNESBURG Oct 27 Police lined the streets of
South Africa's commercial capital on Thursday with hundreds of
youths set to march to the Johannesburg Stock Exchange and
Chamber of Mines demanding big changes to an economy still
controlled by the white minority.
Led by African National Congress (ANC) Youth League leader
Julius Malema, the marchers want President Jacob Zuma's
government to do more to tackle the chronic unemployment
blighting the continent's biggest economy.
Their proposed solutions include nationalisation of the
mines in the world's biggest platinum producer, and the seizure
of white-owned farms -- an echo of the disastrous economic
policies of Zimbabwe's Robert Mugabe.
"We are here because the youth is marginalised by
unemployment," said 29-year-old Given Valashiya, a Youth League
official in Johannesburg.
"Unemployment is high, so it is important to nationalise the
means of production in South Africa as well as expropriate the
land. We want to remind our president about these issues."
About 25 percent of the population is without work. A study
by the South African Institute of Race Relations said 50 percent
of youth lack jobs, with half of 25-to-34-year-olds having
little chance of ever finding them.
Some businesses around the Chamber of Mines in downtown
Johannesburg and the stock exchange in the upmarket Sandton
financial district advised employees to stay home and tightened
security in case the protest turns violent.
By 0930 GMT the march had not yet started, with no
explanation for the delay.
Malema rose to prominence when he campaigned for Zuma's
election in 2007 but he has since fallen out of favour with
South Africa's leader, whose government has ignored his radical
calls for mine nationalisation and farm seizures.
Critics argue that he is using the march to divert attention
from an ANC disciplinary hearing that could see him expelled
from the party.
The growing gap between South Africa's haves and have-nots
has created political space for Malema, whose fearless
challenges to everybody from Zuma to "white capitalists" has
endeared him to the millions of blacks still living in poverty
-- 17 years after the end of white-minority rule.
(Additional reporting by Peroshni Govender; Editing by Ed
Cropley and Mark Heinrich)