Malema has irked big wigs
It's one thing to hate Zuma and quite another to set yourself up as an opponent of the entire ANC leadership, or the party itself
BY the time you read this, you may already know what the decision of the African National Congress's National Disciplinary Committee of Appeal (NDCA) is regarding the appeals of Julius Malema and his comrades and fellow mutineers.
But then you may not. This is the ANC, nothing is easy, straightforward, obvious, or quick.
For my money, I think they're all going down. It's not that I want them to, although the accompanying break out of calm would be welcome.
I'm also not privy to any secret information. My guess is as good as yours. But I do know party disciplinary processes. They're rigged. They're a demonstration of power rather than a pursuit of justice.
By the time you get to the point of being DC'ed, they probably don't want you around anymore, and chances are you won't be around for much longer. Ask Bantu Holomisa.
All of which has made me question the wisdom of the arguments being made by Malema and his co-appellants. The first thing to question is the very fact that I (or anyone else not directly involved in the process) know what they've argued before the NDCA.
Why has the Youth League been so keen to have us all know what their case would be? Rather than issue a simple statement saying they intended to appeal, they called all and sundry to another one of those comedic theatre pieces that are Youth League press conferences, telling everyone who cared to listen what they would say in front of the appeals committee.
This strikes me as both bad politics and bad legal strategy. It's bad politics because it's a move that strikes at the ANC as a whole rather than the charges.
It's bad legal strategy because the ANC prosecution team had their rebuttals ready long before the deadline for submitting written arguments.
But then again, the lead lawyer is Dali Mpofu, which may explain the mess.
The leaguers have argued that the charges against them were politically motivated, that they were not accorded the legal right to argue in mitigation of sentence following conviction, and that the ANC was guided by an "outdated" version of the league's constitution.
The newer, more relevant constitution all but removes the ANC's disciplinary jurisdiction over Youth League members.
To start with, the last argument is utterly bizarre. It's obviously ludicrous for the league to write a constitutional amendment that removes them from the ambit of ANC discipline, an action which is itself a contravention of ANC rules.
On the "political" nature of the charges, it's obvious that discipline in a political organisation is a political concept.
It is not a legal or bureaucratic obligation, but a political requirement. In any case, how does one interpret charges against Floyd Shivambu as being "political", when the man was convicted for behaving like a complete dick on the phone to a journalist?
Presumably by "political", Julius and company mean that the party is attempting to silence the articulation of political differences.
If indeed the ANC is doing this, they would be in breach of rule 25, which specifically forbids disciplinary processes being used to settle political differences. It's a logical enough argument, and even momentarily seductive.
But one has to remember that political differences are so commonplace in the ANC that it's hard to even believe it's a single organisation. Even the league's open opposition to Jacob Zuma and Gwede Mantashe isn't particularly shocking, or wrong.
It is clearly the conduct of the league in pursuing this agenda that has so mortally offended the party. It's one thing to hate Zuma, quite another to set yourself up as an opponent of the entire ANC leadership, or the party itself.
This - at least in the minds of the majority of ANC high-ups - is what Malema did when he referred to the temporary victory of his "enemies" when reacting to his conviction. Perception is everything, and right now the ANC perceives Malema as a threat.
Lastly, the argument for "mitigation of sentence" is based on a confusion of a political process on the one hand, with legalistic principles on the other. The ANC is not a court of law. Its disciplinary processes are only quasi-legal, it cannot throw you in jail or impose physical punishment. It can apply much lower standards of proof and due process.
Organisational disciplinary processes aren't fair. They aren't applied equally across the board. The league should know this, since it has a proven penchant for summarily suspending and disbanding entire elected structures.
If you have chosen to belong to a political organisation, you should keep yourself out of the firing line of disciplinary processes.
- Vukani Mde is SADC editor of Southern Africa Report.