July 25, 2011 / 2:23 PM / 6 years ago

S.Africa's ANC wants Malema to explain corruption charges

* Youth League executives see conspiracy

* Nationalisation plans worry investors

By Peroshni Govender

JOHANNESBURG, July 25 (Reuters) - South Africa’s ruling ANC on said on Monday it will give its Youth League leader and political powerbroker Julius Malema a chance to explain charges made in a newspaper that he had a slush fund to pay for his lavish lifestyle.

Malema’s call to nationalise mines and seize white-owned land has unnerved investors but has also seen him gain ground among poor blacks who make up the majority of the country and envision him as a future leader of Africa’s most powerful economy.

“We will have to speak to Malema before discussing the issue in the media. We want him to explain,” African National Congress party spokesman Jackson Mthembu told Reuters.

At a separate news conference held at ANC headquarters but not attended by Malema, Youth League executives dismissed the allegations, saying the fund in question was a trust fund used for charitable purposes.

On Sunday, The City Press newspaper reported that Malema had set up a trust fund in his son’s name to collect bribes in exchange for helping people win government contracts.

Youth League executives said Malema was a victim a conspiracy hatched by “white capitalists”, “imperialists sucking the blood out of Africa” and those opposed to his plans to nationalise mines in the resource-rich country.

“The ANC Youth League is fully aware that all these allegations are an attempt to divert our attention from the issues we are raising, particularly on nationalisation of mines and expropriation of land without compensation,” said the league’s secretary general Sindiso Magaqa.

The ANC’s biggest ally in the trade union movement COSATU, opposition parties and civil society groups have called on the ruling party to investigate Malema’s flamboyant lifestyle that includes lavish parties and pricey property.

Last year at COSATU’s insistence, Malema appeared before the ANC’s top leaders in a disciplinary hearing for bringing the ruling party into disrepute and defying its leadership.

He escaped relatively unscathed but the hearing put him at odds with President Jacob Zuma, the man he once said he would “kill” for.

Malema, born into poverty, lists as a main source of income his salary as the head of the Youth League, which is a few thousand dollars a month.

Civil society group Afriforum has laid a criminal charge against Malema based on media allegations but police have yet to determine whether they will launch an investigation.

Malema, 30, has no direct policy making power in the ANC but his ability to influence the masses of poor puts him in an influential position, with senior leaders in the ruling party including Zuma courting him to help secure their political aspirations.

The ANC and the government have stressed that nationalisation is not state policy but will entertain deliberations at its policy conference next year.

Economists have said nationalisation would cost hundreds of billions of dollars and likely bankrupt the country. (Editing by Jon Herskovitz)

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