Marco Werman: I'm Marco Werman and this is The World, a coproduction of the BBC World Service, PRI and WGBH Boston. Today, in South Africa on live TV the ruling African National Congress fired its controversial Youth leader, Julius Malema. African National Congress: The acts of misconduct for which the respondent has been found guilty are very serious and have damaged the integrity of the ANC and South Africa's international reputation.
Werman: The ANC's disciplinary committee kicked Malema out of the party for five years. It was a stunning turn of events for a young man who fashioned himself the heir to Nelson Mandela's legacy. The BBC's Milton Nkosi is in Johannesburg. Milton, what was your reaction when you heard the announcement today?
Milton Nkosi: I was surprised because I actually for some odd reason ever thought that the ANC could go that far.
Werman: A lot of our listeners don't know much about Julius Malema. What adjective would you use to describe him, Milton?
Nkosi: I could go along as rebel rouser, very forthright, and actually intelligent, but pushed the boundaries absolutely to the limits. Julius Malema comes from a very poor background in the northern part of South Africa in a small province called Limpopo. He joined the African National Congress when he was only 9 years old, fighting apartheid. So he knows nothing else. The problem is he's fighting for this economy's liberation to try and liberate the millions of poor black South Africans. But Julius Malema has a double life. He lives the life of a millionaire. He lives in the poshest part of Johannesburg. He drives some of the poshest cars and he is often seen in the best champagne parties in town. And that is what has made him to look like a shady character in that sense.
Werman: How was he able to defend that kind of lifestyle?
Nkosi: Well, he hasn't been able to defend it because over and above what has been done today, being suspended from the party, he's also under investigation by the equivalent of the FBI here, they are called the Hawks. And they're investigating him for influence in government contracts. Not only that, he's only being investigated by the Inland Revenue Services. And that is where Malema is. So, he's going to have to account for his lifestyle and his meager salary as the president of the Youth League in the ANC.
Werman: Malema had serious political ambitions. If he hadn't become so controversial how far could he have gone?
Nkosi: He could have gone right up to the top, but of course, he went astray be shooting from the hip as it were.
Werman: How old is Malema?
Nkosi: Malema is 30 years old.
Werman: 30 years old and he's been the ANC youth leader for a while. What exactly is the official role of the ANC Youth leader and how influential is the Youth League still?
Nkosi: Well, the ANC Youth League is actually the preparatory school for ANC leaders. That is traditionally how it is seen within the organization and therefore, most people who are in senior positions now in the ANC came through the ranks of the ANC Youth League.
Werman: Does Julius Malema still have a lot of supporters in South Africa? I mean do you think the country has heard the last of him?
Nkosi: No, the country hasn't heard the last of Julius Malema. However, it is very hard in current South African political landscape to be a force to be reckoned with outside the African National Congress, unless of course, you go to the official opposition, which is a very small party compared to the ANC. So Malema will appeal this process, so this is still gonna go on for a while. It will be to'ing and fro'ing, but very hard to see how he can come back on that leadership tree after what we had today.
Werman: The BBC's Milton Nkosi in Johannesburg, South Africa. And for more about Julius Malema, including a slideshow of political cartoons about him, come to theworld.org.