South African President Jacob Zuma may have taken a significant step towards securing a second term in office when the disciplinary committee of the ruling African National Congress not only rejected the appeal of Julius Malema against a five-year suspension, but ruled to expel him from the party outright.
Malema had been the leader of the African National Congress Youth League.The ANCYL had helped Zuma in ousting his predecessor Thabo Mbeki on the grounds that he had pursued too conservative a policy. Malema has criticized the party for coddling the country's business elites and would like to see white property nationalized.
As the African National Congress essentially dominates South African politics - and has a membership spanning the ideological gamut from business elites to avowed Communists, whoever wins the December leadership battle is assured of the presidency.
Malema was considered irksome, given Zuma's lackluster economic record and the growing corruption within the party.
Malema had also enlisted some of the black churches who believe that the party has lost its way.
Speaking to university students last month, Malema assailed Zuma as a dictator who was stifling any critical thought within the party.
For Zuma this was insubordination: "The ANC youth league belongs to the ANC and once you develop ideas that it can become an organisation on its own then you have missed the point… Their task was to mobilise the youth to the ANC and not alienate the youth from the ANC,”
A belated attempt by Malema to eat humble pie and request that he continue to serve the party as a foot soldier if not as a leader could not erase the memory of that outburst. The party came down heavily on Malema and his associates.
Malema claimed that he had been betrayed by some of his friends.
The Congress of SA Trade Unions, a former ally, quietly accepted the expulsion decision: "As we have said before ... we accept and respect the decisions of the ANC disciplinary procedures and we feel it would not be right to comment.".
Even in his own ANCYL, Malema discovered that the party had people waiting to succeed him. A member of the league executive said Malema would not be allowed to continue using the league to attack Zuma: “They are not going to continue defying (the ANC) in our name,”
This did not end Malema's troubles. Coincidentally or not, the tax authorities are claiming that he owes them millions of Rand in back taxes.
The contractors have stopped work on his three-story house with underground parking garage (today's radical leaders live in style).
Malema and his close associates are being sued by the white leader of the opposition Democratic Alliance Party, Hellen Zille. Malema called her a "racist", "colonialist" and "imperialist", while his associates said that the Democratic Alliance's all-male executive were boyfriends and concubines of the party leader.
The final blow came in the form of newspaper reports claiming that Malema's household workers had not been paid.