JOHANNESBURG, Sept 13 – South Africa’s ruling party is not trying to muzzle controversial youth wing leader Julius Malema, who is currently embroiled in an ANC disciplinary hearing, President Jacob Zuma said Tuesday.
Malema, the fiery president of the African National Congress Youth League, is facing expulsion from the ANC over charges of sowing divisions in the party and bringing it into disrepute.
In an interview published in The Star newspaper Tuesday — the day the ANC disciplinary hearing against Malema is set to resume — Zuma said the ruling party does not want to remove the youth leader from the public eye.
“No, I don’t think that should be the objective. I think the objective is how do you help Malema? Because Malema has a lot of elements that are good in him,” Zuma said.
“What you have to do, is deal with things that are not right with Malema.
“You cannot allow him to do the wrong things. In other words, the job of the ANC is to help Malema, to mould him into a dynamic, good leader. That’s what we need to do. It is only if you can’t do it, that the question becomes what do we do with him.”
He called Malema a “very good” young man and a good communicator, but said the youth leader’s need to be in the spotlight puts him “on the border of saying things that are radical and problematic.”
Malema’s calls to nationalise South Africa’s mines, seize white-owned land and oust the government of neighbouring Botswana have made him one of South Africa’s most controversial figures.
A civil court in Johannesburg found him guilty of hate speech Monday for singing an anti-apartheid struggle song whose Zulu chorus, “dubula ibhunu”, roughly translates as “shoot the white farmer.”
Malema’s radical rhetoric and high profile have lately put him at odds with some in the ANC’s leadership, including Zuma.
The president rose to power with Malema’s backing, but has since lost the support of the youth league, which is frustrated over his failure to embrace Malema’s economic policy proposals.