South African Protests Turn Violent

A political squabble gets ugly when supporters of the divisive Julius Malema take to the streets.

Posted: 08/30/2011 08:36 AM EDT
Filed Under South Africa

Protests in South Africa turned violent Tuesday as members of the ruling party’s youth league took to the streets over the possible suspension of party leaders; throwing stones at police, who responded with stun grenades and a water cannon.

Members of the African National Congress’s youth league came out to show their support for the wing’s firebrand leader, Julius Malema, and five other youth league officers who face expulsion from the party for their involvement in attempting to overthrow the Botswana government.

Controversial leader Malema faces an ANC disciplinary hearing Tuesday on corruption charges and his situation has triggered struggle for the soul of the party, igniting a policy debate on nationalization of mines and banks and Zimbabwe-style land seizures that business analysts and even government ministers warn would be ruinous to the country's economy, writes the Los Angeles Times.

Writes the Times:

The outspoken 30-year-old with a shaved head and a commanding baritone serves as a kind of Freudian id of the ANC, saying things no one else will say. (For instance, his insistence that it's time for white farmers — and businesspeople — to hand over their ill-gotten gains to Blacks: "Why should I pay for what I own?")

Malema, who has been convicted of hate speech, is known for his temper tantrums, verbal attacks on whites, sexist rhetoric and intolerance of dissent. But no one else resonates like Malema with South Africa's sea of angry young unemployed, almost all of them Black, who might not bother to vote if not for him.
 

The talk of expulsion came after the youth league announced plans to send a delegation to assist opposition parties in Botswana with the ouster of democratically elected President Ian Khama. The youth league considered Khama unfit to rule the neighboring nation because he undermined "the African agenda."

However, since the youth league is only a part of the powerhouse ruling party ANC, the bold decision to interfere in the politics of another nation did not sit well with ANC leadership; especially when the South Africa President Jacob Zuma has made a very public case against the United States, Britain and France for their involvement in Libya’s regime change.

Protestors shouted anti-Zuma slogans and burned pictures of ANC leaders, sending a clear signal that they support the work of Malema and the youth league leadership. The old guard of ANC leadership, however, disagreed with the youth league’s decision to conduct such spirited demonstrations.

"The insults that are being thrown, the burning of posters, faces of our leadership that are on some posters, generally the unruly behavior, cars being damaged ... that is totally un-ANC, you will not expect members of the ANC to do that. We cannot be quiet. They are tarnishing the image of the ANC,” ANC party spokesperson Jackson Mthembu told South African newspaper the Mail and Guardian.

This is not the first time Malema has shaken up South African politics. He famously rallied the youth league both in support of Zuma’s election as party president in 2007 and in the ouster of former president Mbeki.

(Photo: NIC BOTHMA/EPA /Landov)

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