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Malema's uphill battle to save his career

By Ido Lekota | 2012-02-16 07:17:52.0

Tables have turned after sweet relationship

SUSPENDED ANC Youth League President Julius Malema is in the dogbox.

One can deduce this from utterances by President Jacob Zuma published in the media this week.

Zuma was quoted describing Malema as immature and having misread the character of the ANC by thinking the ruling party was a weak organisation in which individuals can do whatever they wanted to.

"I think that's why the ANC can no longer do what it did at the beginning because it needs to act, and act resolutely," Zuma is quoted as having said, referring to the party's failure to enforce the sanctions imposed on Malema in 2010 when he was found guilty of bringing the party into disrepute.

Part of the sanction was that Malema should attend anger management sessions - but this never happened.

Malema is currently pleading for mercy before the ANC national disciplinary committee.

He is trying to get the five-year suspended sentence imposed on him for sowing divisions in the party reviewed or reduced.

The ANC's national appeals committee last Saturday confirmed his guilt but sent Malema back to the NDC to plead in mitigation of his sentence.

In the same breath the committee is expected to receive arguments for aggravating circumstances against Malema from the ANC.

Given Zuma's utterances, Malema is facing an uphill battle to save his political career.

Since the action against Malema - even in the wake of taunting and acerbic public statements against him - Zuma has always refrained from any public statements directly rebuking the rebellious youth leader.

Malema has been a beneficiary of Zuma's public image, described by a colleague as "a genial polygamist uncle who loves his machinegun and has no beef with anyone."

In 2010 Malema bore testimony to this when during a radio interview he explained why he eventually apologised to the then minister of higher education Naledi Pandor.

Malema had publicly rebuked Pandor, calling on her "to stop using her fake American accent and deal with the crisis at Tshwane University".

During the interview Malema explained that Zuma had impressed it on him to apologise to Pandor. He wenton to say that his grandmother had told him if it was Zuma who was asking him to apologise he should do so.

According to Malema, his grandmother impressed it on him that he could not afford to be disrespectful to Zuma because he was "a good man who had no beef with anyone".

The tables have obviously turned. This week Zuma bared his political teeth and he is warning anyone in his path - including Malema and his supporters in the ANC leadership - that he is prepared to bite.

The Zuma we are seeing now is different from the one who in 2009 endorsed Malema as a future leader of the ANC.

Speaking at the handing over of a church that Malema had built in Seshego, Zuma described the youth leader as "a leader in the making and someone who would be worthy of inheriting the ANC".

At the height of their cozy relationship Malema went as far as saying that the youth would spill blood for the man. Now - at Malema's instigation - they call Zuma the "irritating shower man".

The battle lines are now drawn between the two former allies.

Last weekend Malema referred to Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe - the man the ANCYL want to replace Zuma - as the "future of South Africa".

What Zuma has done this week is to warn those in the ANC leadership who have shown support for Malema that "you are either with us or against us".

The question remains whether those the warning is aimed at will take heed and succumb - or whether they will bite the bullet and continue to throws their lot with Malema.

Their decision will impact directly on what the ANC national executive committee will do if Malema eventually takes his case to the party's highest decision-making body.

Discussions with several senior leaders have also revealed that there is a growing feeling that Malema has actually pushed the party to the limit with his "political theatrics" and it is about time he has his wings clipped.

Malema, on the other hand, continues to poke the ANC in the eye.

Speaking at the ANCYL lekgotla last weekend Malema insisted that he and his comrades in the ANCYL - who have been sanctioned by the ANC - have not done anything wrong but told the truth about what the people want.

Zuma's latest comments about Malema and the youth leader's continued public defiance are clear signs that there will be a lot of blood on the floor at the end of this political scuffle.

Reading from Zuma's statements, it looksas if most of the blood on the floor will be from Malema's political jugular vein.