ANC youth leader becomes liability for President Zuma

He is the sorcerer's apprentice of South African politics. But deluged by a flood of damaging allegations, the African National Congress (ANC) Youth League leader Julius Malema suddenly faces the prospect that the sorcerer, President Jacob Zuma, will not wave his saviour's wand this time.

Mr Malema is the 30-year-old rhetorical revolutionary who terrifies white South Africans as much as his hero, the Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe. In 2009, he said he would "kill for Zuma'' and went on to garner huge support for the ANC in the general election. He claimed the woman who accused Mr Zuma of a rape – in a case that was dismissed in court in 2006 – "probably enjoyed it''.

He has been convicted for "hate speech'' for chanting an anti-apartheid militants' song "Kill the Boer''. More recently, he has called for the nationalisation of South Africa's biggest employers, the mining industry. In June Mr Malema accused whites of "stealing land'' and called for expropriation without compensation.

But in the past fortnight the domestic worker's son from Limpopo Province seems to have lost his touch for bouncing back. Crucially, Luthuli House, the Johannesburg headquarters of the ANC, has stopped issuing statements in his defence.

The unravelling began when the opposition Democratic Alliance pointed out that while earning R25,000 (£2,300) a month and promoting himself as the champion of the poor, Mr Malema is building an expensive house. They called for him to be subjected to a lifestyle audit. "Juju", as he is known, said that the matter was private. One newspaper, the City Press, reported Mr Malema's purchase of a house on its front page yesterday under the headline "Mister Cash".

The City Press has also survived an attempt by Mr Malema to prevent it from revealing the existence of the Ratanang Family Trust, named after his five-year-old son. A judge ruled that Mr Malema is a public figure and therefore open to scrutiny. The paper described the trust as like a wishing well into which businesses who want government tenders drop gifts to win contracts. City Press found one businessman who claimed to have paid R200,000 into it.

Mr Malema's press conferences are often displays of rhetorical fireworks and racial excess. But uncharacteristically, Mr Malema did not initially turn up to defend the Ratanang Family Trust. Instead, he handed a script to the Youth League secretary general Sindiso Magaqa, who said "it's a private matter".

The Youth League also tried to deploy some Malema-like invective against the white owners of City Press, the Naspers group, Absa Bank and other "capitalist imperialists" linked to the shady apartheid-era "Broederbond".

It was only on Thursday that Mr Malema denied any wrongdoing and told journalists that the Ratanang Trust is a charity that buys wheelchairs and school transport for "the poorest of the poor".

Observers are divided over how the debacle will end and whether Mr Zuma could sack him. Two years into his presidency, Mr Zuma is perceived as weak because he owes too many favours to the wide range of people he enlisted in his campaign to unseat Thabo Mbeki at the helm of the ANC in 2007. The last fortnight has seen a gold miners' strike and unemployment hitting a new high. Mr Malema's arch-enemy in the ANC is its influential secretary-general, Gwede Mantashe, who is also chairman of the South African Communist Party. Last year, after Mr Malema was booed at a Communist Party conference, he called for Mr Mantashe to resign.

But many political commentators argue that the ANC still needs Mr Malema because he provides the party's radical shopfront. He goes canvassing in desperately poor townships still without promised services and where mainstream politicians fear to tread.

Chris Moerdyk, a media commentator, said despite the setbacks, "Brand Malema" was still scoring on all fronts: "His primary objective is to ensure that the ANC stays in power. His role is crucial because 60 per cent of voters are under 30 and roughly 20 per cent of the entire voting public consists of unemployed, largely uneducated young black people with no hope in sight."

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksNow available in paperback
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Packaging Operatives

£7 - £8 per hour: Recruitment Genius: An opportunity has arisen for two indivi...

Ashdown Group: Trainee / Graduate Helpdesk Analyst

£20000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A highly reputable business is looking to rec...

Recruitment Genius: Estimator

£28000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company is a major supplier of buil...

Recruitment Genius: Software Developer

£28000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans appeal: 'You look for someone who's an inspiration and try to be like them'

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Could cannabis oil reverse the effects of cancer?

Could cannabis oil reverse effects of cancer?

As a film following six patients receiving the controversial treatment is released, Kate Hilpern uncovers a very slippery issue
The Interview movie review: You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here

The Interview movie review

You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here
Serial mania has propelled podcasts into the cultural mainstream

How podcasts became mainstream

People have consumed gripping armchair investigation Serial with a relish typically reserved for box-set binges
Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up for hipster marketing companies

Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up

Kevin Lee Light, aka "Jesus", is the newest client of creative agency Mother while rival agency Anomaly has launched Sexy Jesus, depicting the Messiah in a series of Athena-style poses
Rosetta space mission voted most important scientific breakthrough of 2014

A memorable year for science – if not for mice

The most important scientific breakthroughs of 2014
Christmas cocktails to make you merry: From eggnog to Brown Betty and Rum Bumpo

Christmas cocktails to make you merry

Mulled wine is an essential seasonal treat. But now drinkers are rediscovering other traditional festive tipples. Angela Clutton raises a glass to Christmas cocktails
5 best activity trackers

Fitness technology: 5 best activity trackers

Up the ante in your regimen and change the habits of a lifetime with this wearable tech
Paul Scholes column: It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves

Paul Scholes column

It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves
Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Club World Cup kicked into the long grass by the continued farce surrounding Blatter, Garcia, Russia and Qatar
Frank Warren column: 2014 – boxing is back and winning new fans

Frank Warren: Boxing is back and winning new fans

2014 proves it's now one of sport's biggest hitters again
Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas