from Africa in Transition

South Africa: Was Julius Malema in ZANU-PF’s Pocket?

November 18, 2011

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Julius Malema (L), leader of the ruling African National Congress Youth League (ANCYL),is welcomed by Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe (R) at State House in Harare, April 5, 2010. (Philimon Bulawayo/Courtesy Reuters)

In the aftermath of Julius Malema’s suspension from the African National Congress, there is press speculation that his allegedly close ties with Zimbabwe president Robert Mugabe’s ZANU-PF played a role in turning the party’s leadership against him. Specifically, there are press whispers that ZANU-PF was funding Malema to undermine President Jacob Zuma’s mediation efforts in Zimbabwe, which included the ultimate goal of toppling him.

Many South Africans, not just in the business community or among whites, see parallels between Malema’s calls for the nationalization of the mines and seizure of white-owned land and Mugabe’s policies in Zimbabwe. Like Mugabe, Malema does not hesitate to play the race card. And, again like Mugabe, Malema is the voice of the poor and marginalized. So, it’s no suprise that there are whispers that he was funded by Mugabe’s ZANU-PF. Many South Africans thought Malema funded his flash lifestyle through access to government contracts, but Zimbabwean payoffs may have also helped.

In Zimbabwe, commentary on Malema’s departure has been divided. Some associated with ZANU-PF are critical of the ANC, while those close to the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) tend to praise the ANC, especially for the transparency of the process by which Malema was disciplined.

I have seen insufficient evidence to be convinced that Malema was indeed on Mugabe’s payroll. But, it is not improbable. A ZANU-PF connection might also account for the suprising unity within the ANC, at least thus far, in support of Malema’s suspension, but that remains speculation.

More on:

Sub-Saharan Africa

South Africa

Zimbabwe

Heads of State and Government

Political Movements

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