South Africans Protest over Hearing for Zuma Rival

 

Supporters of the ANC Youth League President Julius Malema clashed with police in downtown Johannesburg on Tuesday.

Under attack by Malema supporters burning the party flag and throwing rocks and bottles, the police fired stun grenades and water cannons outside the Johannesburg headquarters of the African National Congress, in power since the first post-apartheid elections in 1994.

Protesters chanting “Zuma must go!” also burned T-shirts and posters bearing the president’s portrait, according to Internet postings by South Africa news services in Johannesburg. The police erected razor wire barricades while a police helicopter hovered. At least one officer was wounded by a flying brick, a police spokesman said, and a South African news channel said one of its television crews was attacked near the party headquarters, Luthuli House.

The hearing on Tuesday came only days after an elite South African police unit known as the Hawks said it was investigating Mr. Malema’s lucrative financial dealings, South African news reports said.

It was not immediately clear when the internal disciplinary panel conducting the hearing would announce its findings. But the A.N.C.’s secretary general, Gwede Mantashe, announced later in the day that it was moving the panel to an unspecified location outside Johannesburg because of the violent demonstrations. The panel is to resume deliberations on Wednesday.

In a statement on its Web site, the A.N.C. also condemned the mayhem and blamed it on the leadership of the youth league.

“It is our view that those who have taken the responsibility to mobilize the crowds to gather outside Luthuli House — the leadership of the A.N.C. Youth League — should also take full responsibility for the violence, criminality and ill discipline that has accompanied these crowds,” the statement said.

Mr. Malema, 30, and other members of the youth league were appearing before the panel to determine whether they should be expelled or possibly suspended for bringing the party’s name into disrepute after calling for the overthrow of the government in neighboring Botswana and criticizing the party leadership.

If Mr. Malema is exonerated, South African analysts said, he may feel emboldened to challenge Mr. Zuma, to whom he brought decisive support in an earlier leadership battle in 2007. But if Mr. Malema is sidelined, the party may be able to pack the youth league leadership with loyalists likely to throw their weight behind Mr. Zuma, ensuring his re-election as party leader.

Under party rules, its leader is also its presidential candidate, so, the analysts said, the fight with Mr. Malema could determine the country’s future leadership. Mr. Zuma is currently visiting Norway.

The dispute between the two men reaches deep into South Africa’s post-apartheid society. With calls to nationalize mines and banks and to seize white-owned farmland, Mr. Malema has caught the imagination of the country’s disaffected youth, telling them that they are missing out on the economic fruits of political freedom.

Referring to the dominant African National Congress, Reuters quoted Mr. Malema as saying on Monday: “If the A.N.C. defines your future as expulsion, we are ready for that.”

“This does not delay our economic struggle,” he said. “We see this as a setback for the revolution we are pursuing. We will continue to push for economic freedom in our lifetime.”

The hearing on Tuesday was the second involving Mr. Malema this year. In May, he was fined and ordered to apologize for sowing discord within the party and undermining its leader’s authority.

On July 31, he publicly urged the ouster of President Ian Khama of neighboring Botswana.

The episode was only one of many that have made Mr. Malema an irritant for the authorities as much as a champion among his more radical followers. While his utterances have cemented his support, they have often troubled potential foreign investors and members of the country’s sizeable white minority.

When he supported Mr. Zuma for the leadership of the party, Mr. Malema said he was ready to kill for him. He has called Helen Zille, the main opposition leader, a cockroach. While the South African government has professed neutrality in efforts to resolve the political and economic crises in neighboring Zimbabwe, Mr. Malema openly supported President Robert G. Mugabe. He once expelled a BBC correspondent from a news conference saying he had “white tendencies.”

Only months ago, Mr. Malema also stirred heated debate about the limits of freedom of expression and the definition of hate speech by singing a song from South Africa’s liberation struggle — Shoot the Boer. The word Boer is usually translated from Afrikaans as meaning white farmer, but is sometimes taken to refer to any white South African.

The party has shown increasing exasperation with him. Some of his statements last year prompted his party to order him to attend anger-management classes. But party leaders rallied to Mr. Malema over his choice of songs, supporting his assertion that the “Shoot the Boer” refrain referred to the anti-apartheid struggle and did not represent a call for murder.

Source: The New York TImes

 

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