FACTBOX-South Africa's firebrand leader Malema

Tue Aug 30, 2011 6:59am GMT
 

By Jon Herskovitz

JOHANNESBURG Aug 30 (Reuters) - South African youth leader Julius Malema faces a disciplinary hearing on Tuesday that could derail the career of a politician who has galvanised legions of poor black supporters and unnerved investors with calls to nationalise mines.

Malema is one of the country's most influential politicians, whose support can boost candidates in the fractious ruling African National Congress, and seen as a kingmaker ahead of a party meeting next year where the ANC elects its leaders.

He has also ignited firestorms by playing the race card in a country scarred by apartheid, defying ANC top brass and calling for the takeover of mines and white-owned land.

He has been branded as a demagogue, a reckless populist and a future leader of Africa's biggest economy. To many in South Africa, he is simply known by his nickname "Juju".

Some facts about Malema:

* Malema, 30, has been the president of the ANC Youth League since April 2008. The league was founded decades ago by political giants including Nelson Mandela and Walter Sisulu.

* He hails from Limpopo province, to the northeast of Johannesburg, and was born into poverty to a single mother who was a domestic worker.

* Malema rose through the local ranks of the ANC, using his Limpopo base as a springboard to national Youth League office.

* Malema flexed his muscles to join a group of power brokers who in late 2007 who ousted then President Thabo Mbkei from his leadership of the party and replaced him with Jacob Zuma, who became the country's president a little over a year later. Malema declared he was ready to kill for Zuma.

* Malema angered many in a January 2009 speech when he said a woman who had accused Zuma of rape had a "nice time".

* In 2010, Malema was found guilty by an ANC disciplinary committee of trying to undermine Zuma. He stayed in his post, but the ANC said in its May 2010 decision that should he again be found guilty of contravening rules in the next two years, "his membership of the ANC shall be summarily suspended".

* His stature suffered even more at a major ANC meeting in September of that year when Zuma chastised the youth leader.

* But he slowly regained support as he pressed for a takeover of the country's mines and expropriating white-owned farmland.

* The country's impoverished youth were increasingly drawn to his radical economic plans and his flamboyant lifestyle that included sushi parties with bikini-clad women, fancy cars and free-flowing champagne.

* He used a court trial this year where he was accused of fanning racial strife by singing the song "Shoot the Boer", or white farmer, at rallies as a platform for greater publicity. He entered court flanked by assault rifle-toting guards and rallied supporters after hearings.

* The wheels started to come off in July when the newspaper City Press, in an article vetted by a judge before publication, wrote Malema had a slush fund for bribes used to finance his lavish lifestyle. More reports of questionable finances followed with the Youth League denying wrongdoing and saying Malema was the victim of a conspiracy launched by white capitalists.

* A few weeks after that, the ANC criticised the Youth League for its calls to help in a military struggle to oust the democratically elected leader of Botswana.

* The ANC charged Malema in August with undermining the party and plans a disciplinary hearing on Tuesday. (Additional reporting by Mmathabo Tladi; Editing by Marius Bosch)

 
Powered by Reuters AlertNet. AlertNet provides news, images and insight from the world's disasters and conflicts and is brought to you by Reuters Foundation.