Charismatic ANC Youth League leader Julius Malema and other members of the body have intensified their criticism of President Jacob Zuma by openly calling him a dictator and asking that he be disciplined. Youth league secretary-general Sindiso Magaqa wrote to Gwede Mantashe, his counterpart in the mother body, asking him to consider whether Zuma had breached the ANC’s constitution.
In a letter dated March 19, 2012, Magaqa complained about the answer given by Zuma at a business breakfast in Port Elizabeth last month, when the president was asked about the future of the league once Malema had gone.
Magaqa wrote: “We believe that [Zuma’s] utterances are a contravention of the ANC constitution and conduct because they violate Section 25.2 of the ANC constitution, which forbids usage of discipline to settle political scores and suppress dissent.
“The utterances also undermine the integrity and consistency of the ANC officials, who have the obligation to provide objective, consistent and fair leadership …”
Magaqa reminded Mantashe that, in February, the ANC secretary-general had chastised ANC treasurer-general Mathews Phosa for speaking about the disciplinary action against Malema.
Phosa had told a rally in Limpopo that the ANC did not throw away its own – a reference to Malema’s case.
Magaqa’s letter said: “The statements of [Zuma] not only undermine the statement and public commitment of the ANC officials, but brings into question the integrity and fairness of the disciplinary hearing, which is still in process.”
Magaqa said Zuma had sought to influence the ANC’s national disciplinary committee of appeals, and had in fact given a “directive” to the appeal committee.
The league has embarked on a full-scale campaign against Zuma as it becomes clear that opposition to the president is mounting ahead of the ruling party’s national conference in Mangaung in December.
The youth league has been circulating an SMS ad campaign with the line-up of its desired leaders.
The SMS has Zuma’s deputy, Kgalema Motlanthe, as president, Phosa as his deputy, Gwede Mantashe as national chairman, Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma or Thandi Modise as deputy secretary-general and Tokyo Sexwale as treasurer.
In an unprecedented attack on Friday evening, Malema accused Zuma of intolerance and of traumatising the youth league.
At a public lecture at the University of the Witwatersrand to celebrate the ANC’s centenary, Malema accused Zuma of being intolerant and of suppressing divergent views.
“It is under President Zuma that we have seen the youth in the ANC being traumatised; the youth in the ANC expelled from their home; the critical voice of the voiceless being suppressed.
“We have seen under President Zuma democracy being replaced by a dictatorship,” Malema told the audience in the packed Wits Great Hall.
He said previous ANC leaders had given the league space to be critical and to differ from them, but when it came to Zuma, the league’s activism was seen as ill-discipline.
Phosa spoke at the same meeting, and stressed that the ruling party needed to give the youth league space to be able to think and express its views.
Magaqa refused to comment on the letter to Mantashe, saying the ANCYL did not communicate on internal matters to the media.
Mantashe was not available for comment and did not respond to a text and voice messages. But ANC spokesman Jackson Mthembu reacted angrily to Malema’s comments.
Mthembu said Malema’s utterances were a “distortion” and had no basis.
Mthembu issued a veiled threat to the youth leader.
“If this assault and insults on the ANC leadership by Malema continues, he will be unwittingly dragging himself to a precipice where a point of return is impossible in the eyes of ANC members… We remain totally opposed to any notion that President Zuma is a dictator and that he traumatised any structure of the ANC…” said Mthembu.