Zimbabweans responded in various ways to the suspension Thursday by South Africa's ruling African National Congress of Julius Malema, the firebrand former president of the ANC Youth League whose declarations unnerved politicians and investors alike.
Malema was banned for five years from the party after an ANC disciplinary committee found him guilty of sowing divisions and bringing the party into disrepute by urging regime change in neighboring Botswana and swearing at a journalist.
Malema said he would appeal the suspension, saying the “gloves were off and it was time to confront and fight the enemy."
South African financial markets rallied on news of his suspension – investors were shaken by his calls for nationalization of mines and Zimbabwe-style land reform.
Analysts said Malema seemed to model his thinking on the policies of Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe's ZANU-PF. The ANC recently accused the Zimbabwean party of “influencing” Malema’s stances on mines nationalization and land reform.
Zimbabwean political commentator Alex Magaisa, a lecturer at Kent University in the United Kingdom, said Malema may have been flawed as an individual in his politics, but it would be a mistake for the ANC not to address his economic agenda.
“I think it’s actually a cause for introspection in terms of whatever views he represented and I think that South Africa needs to address those issues in as much as Zimbabweans needed to address the issues of minority ownership of resources in the country because to not address them, I think, is an error,” Magaisa said
Analyst Rejoice Ngwenya said that while Malema enjoyed strong support among youths, the decision by the ANC showed it is a party capable of reining in extremists.
“The ANC has shown its capacity to reign in on over-enthusiastic renegades that defy the order of institutional organizations. They sent a stronger message that their party can institute disciplinary measures even to people who believe they have strong roots.”
South Africa based political commentator Paul Chimhosva said the Malema saga was typical of the drama seen from time to time in African liberation movements.