South Africa's Youth League plans to bus in thousands of supporters of its firebrand leader Julius Malema for a vigil to put pressure on the ruling ANC ahead of a disciplinary hearing that could derail Malema's political career.
Malema and his spokesman have been charged with "sowing divisions" in the ranks of the African National Congress and bringing the party into disrepute. The hearing is expected to start on Tuesday behind closed doors at ANC headquarters.
The hearing is fraught with risks for President Jacob Zuma, who rose to power with Malema's support but has seen his rivals court Malema to try to seize control of the ANC. If Malema is suspended, Zuma can likely thwart his rivals but if he is exonerated, Zuma could be fighting for his political survival.
Malema's call to nationalise mines and seize white-owned land has unnerved investors but struck a chord with poor blacks who see him as a future leader of Africa's biggest economy.
He has taken shots at Zuma's leadership over the past few months and his most recent spat with the ANC's top officials came after the League called for the overthrow of the elected government of neighbouring Botswana.
"The disciplinary committee might feel some pressure which could influence their final decision but I don't think it will have an effect on the proceedings," said Dirk Kotze, a politics professor at the University of South Africa.
If Malema is found guilty, he could be suspended from the party for several years after being found guilty of a similar offence last year.
Malema, 30, has no direct policy-making power but his ability to influence the masses gives him sway over senior leaders seeking to secure political promotion.
Zuma faces re-election as the head of the ANC at a party meeting next year and sidelining Malema for at least two years could help him win another term by neutralising opponents who have been quietly courting Malema's support.
Since the ANC enjoys virtual one-party rule, its president is assured of the country's leadership. Zuma became president in a little over a year after taking over the ANC in December 2007 from incumbent Thabo Mbeki.
But if Malema is exonerated, Zuma could find himself struggling for his political survival, trying to fend off the youth leader's calls for a takeover of the mining sector -- a move analysts say would bankrupt the country.
They say South Africa cannot afford nationalisation because the market capitalisation of its listed mining firms amounts to about two-thirds of its gross domestic product and twice its annual national budget.
If it tries to expropriate shares at a fraction of their value, the country could violate international investment guarantees that would trigger its global trading isolation.
ReutersLast Mod: 29 Ağustos 2011, 14:53