At South Africa Summit, Hard-Liners Pushing to Seize White Farms

Article excerpt

In a Monitor interview, hard-liner Julius Malema outlines a young generation's vision for how South Africa can emulate Zimbabwe's land reform.

A fight for the soul of South Africa's ruling party is under way in Durban at an African National Congress (ANC) policy conference that could decide who rules the party and how it is run for the remaining two years of this presidential term.

At stake at the ANC's National General Council are not just a handful of political careers, but the party's commitment to democracy, property rights, a free market economic system, and transparency.

ANC dissidents aren't likely to remove South African President Jacob Zuma from the top spot. But given that the two ANC allies that worked the hardest to put Mr. Zuma into power in the 2008 election now appear at odds with him, the conference should foreshadow trouble for Zuma down the road.

The ANC won over 65 percent of the vote in the last general election with the help of the Congress of South African Trades Unions and the South African Communist Party, so the ANC's hold on power is not in imminent danger.

But Zuma's leadership over the ANC itself appears increasingly fragile.

On the left, Zuma faces challenges from a massive labor union conglomerate whose strikes last month nearly brought the nation to a halt.

And on his populist right, Zuma's authority is being challenged by the pugnacious Julius Malema, the controversial leader of the ANC's Youth League, who has repeatedly called for the ANC's older generation to step aside for the new generation.

"The issue of generational mix will not be avoided," Mr. Malema said in an interview with the Monitor. "We will make sure that this generational mix is done in all ANC structures." Malema also said he will push for South Africa to nationalize mines, a proposal that would likely scare off foreign investment, and confiscate white- owned farms.

Radical transformation?

"We are going to use the NGC [National General Council] as a launch event for this radical economic transformation," said Malema. "We need to translate our wealth from the minority to the majority unashamedly and without pleasing Britain, the imperialist."

South Africa hasn't been a British colony for 63 years. But anticolonialist rhetoric like Malema's is striking a chord here, as public-sector unions turn against a government they once supported and calls for nationalization are finding a large audience.

"It's going to be tough," says Adam Habib, the deputy vice chancellor of the University of Johannesburg and a political analyst. "But what the meeting will achieve is to make a compromise on certain issues, otherwise I can't see the congress agreeing on anything the ANC Youth League, Cosatu [Congress of South African Trades Unions], and SACP [the South African Communist Party] would raise. …