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."

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Life and Style
tech

Board creates magnetic field to achieve lift

News
There have been various incidents of social media users inadvertently flouting the law
news

Life and Style
Stack ‘em high?: quantity doesn’t always trump quality, as Friends of the Earth can testify
techThe proliferation of online petitions allows us to register our protests at the touch of a button. But do they change anything?
News
Bourgogne wine maker Laboure-Roi vice president Thibault Garin (L) offers the company's 2013 Beaujolais Nouveau wine to the guest in the wine spa at the Hakone Yunessun spa resort facilities in Hakone town, Kanagawa prefecture, some 100-kilometre west of Tokyo
i100
Sport
CSKA Moscow celebrate after equalising with a late penalty
footballCSKA Moscow 2 Manchester City 2: Premier League champions let two goal lead slip in Russia
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

Year 3 Teacher

£100 - £130 per day: Randstad Education Chelmsford: KS2 TeacherWould you like ...

Teacher

£100 - £130 per day: Randstad Education Chelmsford: Would you like to have a b...

KS2 Teacher

£100 - £130 per day: Randstad Education Chelmsford: Ofsted said "A good larger...

PPA Cover Teacher

£110 - £130 per day + Competitive rates of pay: Randstad Education Reading: Pr...

Day In a Page

Indiana serial killer? Man arrested for murdering teenage prostitute confesses to six other murders - and police fear there could be many more

A new American serial killer?

Police fear man arrested for murder of teen prostitute could be responsible for killing spree dating back 20 years
Sweetie, the fake 10-year-old girl designed to catch online predators, claims her first scalp

Sting to trap paedophiles may not carry weight in UK courts

Computer image of ‘Sweetie’ represented entrapment, experts say
Fukushima nuclear crisis: Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on - and may never return home

Return to Fukushima – a land they will never call home again

Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on from nuclear disaster
Wildlife Photographer of the Year: Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize

Wildlife Photographer of the Year

Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize
Online petitions: Sign here to change the world

Want to change the world? Just sign here

The proliferation of online petitions allows us to register our protests at the touch of a button. But do they change anything?
Ed Sheeran hits back after being labelled too boring to headline festivals

'You need me, I don’t need you'

Ed Sheeran hits back after being labelled too boring to headline festivals
How to Get Away with Murder: Shonda Rhimes reinvents the legal drama

How to Get Away with Murder

Shonda Rhimes reinvents the legal drama
A cup of tea is every worker's right

Hard to swallow

Three hospitals in Leicester have banned their staff from drinking tea and coffee in public areas. Christopher Hirst explains why he thinks that a cuppa is every worker's right
Which animals are nearly extinct?

Which animals are nearly extinct?

Conservationists in Kenya are in mourning after the death of a white northern rhino, which has left the species with a single male. These are the other species on the brink
12 best children's shoes

Perfect for leaf-kicking: 12 best children's shoes

Find footwear perfect to keep kids' feet protected this autumn
Anderlecht vs Arsenal: Gunners' ray of light Aaron Ramsey shines again

Arsenal’s ray of light ready to shine again

Aaron Ramsey’s injury record has prompted a club investigation. For now, the midfielder is just happy to be fit to face Anderlecht in the Champions League
Comment: David Moyes' show of sensitivity thrown back in his face by former Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson

Moyes’ show of sensitivity thrown back in his face... by Ferguson

Manchester United legend tramples on successor who resisted criticising his inheritance
Two super-sized ships have cruised into British waters, but how big can these behemoths get?

Super-sized ships: How big can they get?

Two of the largest vessels in the world cruised into UK waters last week
British doctors on brink of 'cure' for paralysis with spinal cord treatment

British doctors on brink of cure for paralysis

Sufferers can now be offered the possibility of cure thanks to a revolutionary implant of regenerative cells
Ranked seventh in world’s best tourist cities - not London, or Edinburgh, but Salisbury

Lonely Planet’s Best in Travel 2015

UK city beats Vienna, Paris and New York to be ranked seventh in world’s best tourist destinations - but it's not London