April 20, 2010 / 12:38 PM / 10 years ago

South Africa's Malema to escape ANC discipline

JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) - South Africa’s outspoken ANC Youth League leader Julius Malema will not be disciplined by the party despite defying President Jacob Zuma’s warning to stop inflammatory comments, a youth league source said Tuesday.

Malema was criticized by Zuma earlier this month over his support for Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe’s ZANU-PF and his controversial land reform policies, under which white-owned farms have been given to black Zimbabweans.

Zuma also rebuked Malema for continuing to sing apartheid era songs that racially polarized South Africans, and for embarrassing the ruling party by throwing a foreign journalist out of a news conference.

But during a five-hour meeting of the top six officials of the African National Congress including Zuma Monday, to discuss how to deal with Malema, the Youth League requested its leader should not be singled out for censure.

“Anything he does or says is on behalf of the Youth League. He has the mandate of the Youth League,” said Vuyiswa Tulelo, the movement’s secretary general, at a news conference.

ANC Deputy Secretary General Thandi Modise said the league had argued Malema was mandated to speak on its behalf and should therefore not be victimized. Any disciplinary action should be directed at the entire youth movement.

But the ANC was still considering what do about Malema.

“The request for us to pronounce on what action will be taken is premature. The ANC is still considering what to do,” Modise told reporters Tuesday.

“There are no formal charges, the disciplinary process is still in motion,” she said.

Investors have been watching developments between the ANC and its youth wing as some worry that the youth leader’s racial rhetoric could cause tensions among races in Africa’s biggest economy but Modise dismissed concerns.

“I don’t think that the discipline of the Youth League has anything to do with how people view investing here,” she said.

But Nomura International emerging market economist Peter Attard Montalto said the ANC’s failure to take action against Malema was a “missed” opportunity.

“Investors are looking increasingly at Malema as he becomes more important and grows his powerbase,” he said.

“The head of a political youth league doesn’t matter in any other country in the world. However, in South Africa given the large following Malema has, he is important to watch and the ANC must realize this,” he said. Modise said Zuma’s position had not been weakened by the furor around Malema.

“Whatever Malema does, does not make Jacob Zuma a strong or weak president. The president should be judged by his own performance.”

Editing by Giles Elgood

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