ANC Youth leader Malema pledges allegiance to Zuma ahead of 2012

By Crystal van Wyk in Cape Town

Posted on June 16, 2011 13:31

ANC youth league president Julius Malema opened the much-anticipated 24th congress in Midrand on June 16, pledging allegiance to President Jacob Zuma. Speculation had been rife before the congress that the league’s support had shifted away from Zuma after Malema recently heaped praise on former president Thabo Mbeki.

Only a week after praising Mbeki as “one of the best leaders the ANC had”, Malema vowed that the league would stand firmly behind Zuma. He was delivering the opening address to some 6,000 delegates at the conference which was held on South Africa’s Youth Day, June 16.

The league was one of the main supporters of Zuma against former president Thabo Mbeki at the ruling party’s conference to elect a new president at Polokwane in 2007.

At an earlier event in Cape Town, Malema said that the League “would never allow anyone to topple Zuma” and would always protect him.

But while the league was instrumental in his becoming president of the country, Zuma did not owe the league anything, Malema told the Western Cape’s youth provincial council.

“We don’t want anything from Zuma. We don’t expect any reward. He is the president of the African National Congress and the country. He is uncontested. There is no attack (on the presidency) whatsoever from the ANCYL.”

If the league wanted a different president it would be vocal about it, as it did when voicing opposition to former president Thabo Mbeki’s leadership, Malema said. His remarks came against the backdrop of speculation by some commentators that the league was trying to unseat Zuma.

Eyes on 2012

Earlier, Malema was forced to call his supporters to order at the opening of the congress. Malema had asked delegates not to become factional after they shouted “Juju, Juju”( his nickname) when he greeted them. He said “no-one was going to disrupt the conference in my name.”

Sifuna Ujuju manje” (we want Malema now), “uMalema ungowethu” (Malema is our leader), were some of the songs sung by the delegates.

Gauteng chairperson, Lebogang Maile, touted as a rival to Malema for the presidential position, was booed at the congress. Maile had gone into the election as an underdog after he failed to get even a single province to endorse his candidacy

President Jacob Zuma also addressed the conference and received a resounding welcome. The former league president and now sports minister, Fikile Mbalula, received an equally thunderous applause. Malema and the league have been touting Mbalula as a successor to ANC Secretary General, Gwede Mantashe.

Mbalula has been at the centre of speculation that the youth league’s allegiance has shifted away from the current ANC leadership and that they want change at the 2012 Mangaung conference. But speculation has been rife on the health of Mbalula, who collapsed during a cabinet meeting a few weeks ago. Some believe he had a mild stroke.

In his political report, Malema made it clear that the league would not back down on its call for the nationalisation of mines, banks and land.

After having been endorsed by all nine provinces including Gauteng, Maile’s province, Malema is expected to retain the Youth League presidency. All eyes will now be focused on who he supports or dismisses ahead of the 2012 leadership race.

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