An ANC disciplinary panel in November found Malema guilty of bringing the 99-year-old liberation movement into disrepute, and expelled him for five years. The 30-year-old has appealed the suspension and is allowed to stay in the party pending a decision.
If he loses the appeal, the ANC election to the party’s executive committee for the Limpopo province would be merely symbolic. He faces being stripped of the post and also of his leadership of the ANC’s Youth League.
But the vote result does send a message to his adversary, President Jacob Zuma, that Malema may try to rally support from his home base to shake up a major ANC meeting next year when the party elects its leader, analysts said.
“It is a sign that Mr. Malema and his allies are not going to roll over and accept the authority of Luthuli House (the ANC’s headquarters)… without a fight,” Business Day newspaper said in an editorial.
Malema, a power broker who helped Zuma rise to power at the ANC’s last electoral meeting in 2007, has increasingly crossed swords with the president, mocking him in public at the weekend.
Zuma has been moving to consolidate power ahead of the party election. If he wins the race as party president, he is almost assured of a second term in office as the country’s president given the ANC’s stranglehold over local politics.
Zuma’s government this month took direct control of parts of several provincial administrations, including Limpopo, in a clampdown on profligate spending.
Many impoverished South Africans have rallied behind Malema’s calls to take over mines and seize white-owned farm land and see him as a future leader of Africa’s largest economy.
However, analysts predict his suspension will be upheld, leaving Malema’s political future uncertain. No date has been set for a decision on his appeal.
Malema has told reporters the ANC is his home and he may be wary of leaving the ruling party after several high-profile ANC members failed in their attempt to start a new party. Reuters