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South African ruling party expels Malema, but what's next?

Julius Malema, outspoken leader of the ANC Youth League, was expelled Wednesday for creating division within party. But ANC still faces challenge of appealing to youths. 

By Scott Baldauf and Savious KwinikaStaff Writer and Correspondent / March 1, 2012

ANC Youth League President Julius Malema greets striking miners after addressing them outside the Impala platinum mine in Rustenburg, on Tuesday. The outspoken leader of the ANC Youth League, was expelled Wednesday for creating division within party.

Siphiwe Sibeko/Reuters

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Boston; and Johannesburg, South Africa

South Africa’s ruling party, the African National Congress, has sent its outspoken youth leader packing.

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Julius Malema, who has dominated headlines since becoming head of the ANC’s Youth League in late 2007, was formally expelled from the ANC on Wednesday night for sowing divisions within the party and for advocating the overthrow of the government of Botswana. Two other senior ANCYL leaders, spokesman Floyd Shivambu and secretary general Sindiso Mangaqa, were suspended from party membership for three years.

Derek Hanekom, chairman of the ANC’s National Disciplinary Committee, said the behavior of Mr. Malema and company was "totally unacceptable."

 "Having weighed and considered all factors, the NDC found Comrade Julius Malema guilty and is expelled from the ANC,” Mr. Hankeom told reporters Wednesday night. Malema will be required to vacate his position as president of the youth league, he added, but Malema has the right to appeal the decision within 14 days.

Malema’s expulsion marks a turning point of sorts for the African National Congress, which has struggled for years to balance its competing missions of maintaining an atmosphere of tolerance and racial harmony on one hand, and seeking economic empowerment and justice for South Africa’s historically deprived black majority. South Africa’s official unemployment rate is 25 percent, but as many as half of all South Africans under the age of 30 are jobless. Even if Malema does depart from the political scene, this young, underemployed majority will still smolder with frustration over the slow pace of progress in the townships where they live, and they will find another leader to give voice to those frustrations. If the ANC doesn’t manage those frustrations, it will have another Malema to deal with.

“The gap between the ANC Youth League and actual South African youths is huge, and Malema doesn’t represent young unemployed black people in any case,” says Steven Friedman, director of the Center for the Study of Democracy at the University of Johannesburg. “I keep hearing people say, ‘Well, surely young people must be angry about their situation,’ and I say, ‘They’ve been doing something for years.’ They are the ones at the front lines of any township protest or political rally.”

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