Only the ANC Youth League has the right to dismiss its leaders, its carismatic leader Julius Malema told delegates at the league’s three-day lekgotla in Tshwane on Friday.
“If the youth says we must step down and resign, we are prepared to step down.”
To applause, Malema said the leadership had effectively been found guilty of abiding by the resolutions of the league’s 24th congress held in 2011.
“The basic lesson we have learned is that of democratic centralisation… we are guilty of thinking.”
He said if the ANC had the right to fire the league’s leaders, then it should be appointing the leadership which, he pointed out, it did not.
“We did not commit anything wrong against the movement. The only thing we did was to speak about how the land must be restored to its original owners.”
He also reiterated the call for the nationalisation of mines, banks, and “monopolistic” industries.
This call for nationalisation was in line with the ANC’s Freedom Charter, according to which the country’s resources should belong to everybody in the country, he said.
Malema also had a dig at attempts to stifle debate about succession within the ANC.
“The succession battle should be discussed without fear or favour. It should not be a taboo topic.”
Malema received a rousing welcome from delegates when he arrived at the lekgotla.
He made a quiet entrance at the St George’s conference centre in Tshwane. But as soon as he was on stage, delegates broke out into loud singing before his opening speech even tears could be seen streaming from the cheks of some attendees.
ANCYL deputy president Ronald Lamola introduced Malema as the “chief commander of the economic freedom fighters”. The country’s Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe was also expected to speak.
Delegates toyi-toyed and sang before the conference started. Some of the songs being sung were “Bloemfontein 2012, we are voting for Malema” and “The shower man is troubling us”, a reference to President Jacob Zuma.
The event was Malema’s first public appearance since the ANC announced last Saturday that his appeal against his five-year suspension from the ANC had been rejected.
He, however, remains a party member until arguments in mitigation of his suspension have been concluded.