Final nail in Julius Malema's political coffin?

Julius Malema. Photo: March 2012 Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Julius Malema has been sidelined by party stalwarts and could be marginalised

This is the final nail in Julius Malema's political coffin, at least for his career within South Africa's ruling African National Congress (ANC) party.

By confirming the expulsion of the firebrand youth leader for bringing the party into disrepute and sowing divisions within its ranks, the ANC's National Disciplinary Committee of Appeal has sent a clear and emphatic message that "there's no-one who can be bigger than the party itself".

In principle, he can approach the party's National Executive Committee and ask it to review the process and if he fails there, go to the party's leadership conference later in the year - but as the disciplinary committee is appointed by the NEC to represent the leadership in such matters, it seems pointless.

It is very hard to see how the 31 year old can come back from this knock-out blow.

Without the party machinery, Mr Malema will be diminished to a small political player. He will be weak and irrelevant to the major decision-makers of the most powerful economy on the African continent.

Even if he tries to resurrect himself outside the ANC, he will face an uphill battle.

The ANC once expelled one of its prominent leaders Bantu Holomisa and he started his own political party. He is now an MP but his United Democratic Movement is supported by fewer than 1% of voters nationwide.

Political analyst Prof Sipho Seepe says Mr Malema's expulsion means that "for now there'll be widespread sympathetic support for him but in the long term that support will disappear".

Mr Malema is also facing a massive investigation into his financial affairs by powerful anti-corruption government agencies.

Just this week, South Africa's City Press newspaper reported that he was slapped with a 10m rand (£800,000; $1.3m) tax bill by the South African Revenue Services (SARS).

This means that Mr Malema's expulsion from his "family" - as he put it - is just the beginning of his woes.

The corruption investigations are very likely to drag him to court.

He will have to explain how he - a young man from a humble background in rural Limpopo province - managed to acquire so much wealth in such a short space of time, including a 3.6m-rand house in a posh suburb of Sandton, particularly since until now he had been earning a meagre Youth League salary of about 20,000 rand a month.

Deep divisions

His expulsion came as a result of his public statement that he had supported "regime change" in neighbouring Botswana.

Mr Malema has argued that he was also kicked out because he is campaigning for the nationalisation of mines and wants the expropriation of land without compensation.

Recently he also said: "It is under President [Jacob] Zuma that we have seen the youth of the ANC being traumatised, being expelled from their own home. It is under President Zuma we have seen a critical voice being suppressed.

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption The ANC is celebrating its 100th anniversary

"We have seen under President Zuma, democracy being replaced with dictatorship."

The Malema drama comes as the ANC celebrates its centenary - and underlies the fact that the party of Nelson Mandela, Oliver Tambo, Walter Sisulu and many other anti-apartheid heroes is facing its deepest divisions since 1994.

Some blame the current woes on the party conference in 2007 which swept Mr Zuma to the presidency of Africa's oldest liberation movement.

It was then that Mr Zuma mounted a hurricane of an attack against Thabo Mbeki, the country's president at the time and Mr Zuma's old comrade.

Leading the call for Mr Mbeki to step down was Mr Malema.

He campaigned vigorously and in the end Mr Mbeki was forced to resign in September 2008.

Though he has since changed his tune, now saying he wants President Zuma to be replaced Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe.

But what does this all mean for the ordinary people of South Africa?

The ANC is a recognised all over the world for helping to end the evil system of apartheid. But now its image is tarnished by the infighting.

This is being watched with glee by supporters of the former white-minority government - Hendrik Verwoerd, the architect of apartheid, must be smiling from the grave.

On the main news bulletins every night, South Africans are constantly bombarded by ANC faction fights.

Apartheid is gone, South Africa is free, but those who fought racial discrimination are turning on each other.

It must be disappointing for those who spent long periods in jail fighting apartheid.

As for Mr Malema's future, the young lion from Limpopo will roar no more within the cages of his political home, the ANC.

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