Violent protests signal power struggle in S.Africa

JOHANNESBURG (AP) — Violent protests Tuesday by supporters of South Africa’s firebrand youth leader are the latest political salvo in a power struggle that could determine the future of South Africa’s president and the man who helped catapult him to power, youth league chief Julius Malema.

Demonstrators burned flags of the ruling African National Congress and ran through the streets of downtown Johannesburg holding up flaming T-shirts bearing the image of President Jacob Zuma.

“Zuma must go!” they chanted.

When the protesters began lobbing stones and bottles, police detonated stun grenades and turned water cannons on the crowd of thousands. Later, they fired rubber bullets to get protesters off the roof of an armored car.

The focus for Tuesday’s demonstration was the start of a disciplinary hearing for Malema and five other youth league officers accused of bringing the ANC into disrepute with their calls for the ouster of the democratic government of neighboring Botswana. They face expulsion or suspension from the party.

Analysts say the hearing is a pretext to confront the growing power of Malema, who has mobilized disillusioned and unemployed youth with demands that the government nationalize the wealthy mining sector and appropriate white-owned farm land for black peasants.

Malema, 30, says that is the only way to address growing inequality and poverty in Africa’s richest nation and better distribute wealth that remains firmly entrenched in the minority white community and among a few thousand blacks who have grown wealthy mainly off government contracts.

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