With the expulsion of Youth League leader, Julius Malema from the ANC, Limpopo Premier Cassel Mathale becomes Zuma’s most dedicated adversary within the party.
A close ally of Malema who is also from Limpopo, Mathale is calling for deputy president Kgalema Motlanthe to take over from Zuma when the party holds its elective conference in Manguang in December.
But most insiders say the gentlemanly and cerebral Motlanthe is a most improbable political putschist.
His would-be backers are hard men. Mathale is a former Youth League leader and another political ally, Fikile Mbalula, wants to take over the powerful ANCYL secretary general position from incumbent Gwede Mantashe.
ANC activists in Limpopo interpret the expulsion of Malema from the party as a warning to the provincial executive committee (PEC) that it is being watched.
Surprisingly, Limpopo ANC said it would accept Malema’s expulsion although it would have preferred “a different outcome”. Malema will no longer serve on Limpopo’s Provincial Executive Council.
While Zuma’s allies at the centre are piling the pressure on the Limpopo dissidents – first by putting the province under administration, then commissioning a task team to investigate election irregularities – Premier Mathale claims he is trying to take personal rivalries out of the dispute.
In April he told the province: “We have a political responsibility to avoid personalisation of political differences. Politics of the movement must never be treated like our personal property.” To buttress his case, Mathale is now calling for the ANC to adopt Malema’s proposals to nationalise the mines, so turning the clash with Zuma into an ideological dispute.
Mathale called for the nationalisation of mines at a Freedom Day celebration. He rejected claims that it would chase away investors, saying they wanted South Africa’s chrome, platinum and gold too much to leave.
The ANC Youth League issued a statement saying it was “inspired that the battle is now taken by ANC leaders and ANC structures as illustrated by the pronouncements of comrade Cassel Mathale.” It claimed that “Comrade Mathale… is 100% correct that the story of capital flight and disinvestment that comes as a result of nationalisation of mines is an urban legend.”
In June, ANC members attending the policy conference agreed that state intervention in the minerals and mining sector was “urgently required”, but rejected the idea of whole-scale nationalisation. It opted for “strategic nationalisation and strenghtening of the State mining company. Addressing the final day of the policy conference, President Jacob Zuma told delegates, ” conference has agreed that the state intervention with the focus on… industrialisation is urgently required in the minerals sector.”
Zuma said, “At the forefront of this intervention should be strengthening of the recently created state mining company by consolidating state mining assets into a single institution.”
According to the ANC’s draft policy document released in March, nationalisation of mineral wealth would either cost over R1trn in compensation to mining companies, or cause a near collapse of foreign investment together with costly litigation. “This route would clearly be an unmitigated economic disaster for our country and our people,” the ANC said in the document entitled ‘State Intervention in the Minerals Sector’.
But final word over the thorny issue will only be decided in December when the policy will be adopted