South Africa army put on 'high alert' for Malema rally

Julius Malema taking the salute while addressing soldiers in the Johannesburg area (12 September) Julius Malema told the soldiers that South Africa risks becoming a dictatorship

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The South African military was put on high alert as firebrand politician Julius Malema addressed disgruntled soldiers in the Johannesburg area.

It was the first time since South Africa became a democracy in 1994 that the government issued such an order.

Mr Malema told the soldiers to mobilise in a disciplined way to save their jobs.

Earlier, Defence Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula accused him of trying to "mobilise against the state".

Mr Malema has been touring mines since the 16 August Marikana killings, calling for a national strike and for mines to be made "ungovernable".

Jittery mood

"They are all indications that this is counter-revolutionary," Ms Mapisa-Nqakula said.

Analysis

Branded a demagogue by his critics, South African youth leader Julius Malema is using the Marikana killings - the most deadly police action since white minority rule ended 18 years ago - to resuscitate his political career.

Mr Malema is hoping that the ruling African National Congress (ANC) party will oust President Jacob Zuma as its leader at its national conference in December - and reverse the decision taken in April to expel him for sowing divisions in the party.

Mr Malema is exploiting the killings - which saw police shoot dead 34 striking miners at the Marikana mine on 16 August - to reinforce his image as the champion of poor black South Africans, though he also has some support in black business circles.

He moves with ease between the two groups, toyi-toying (a revolutionary dance popularised during the anti-apartheid struggle) at rallies in shack settlements, before slipping away to leafy suburbs for all-night parties with the nouveau riche.

Johannesburg-based political analyst William Gumede argues that Mr Malema is similar to politicians in Zimbabwe's Zanu-PF party, led by President Robert Mugabe.

The soldiers Mr Malema addressed were suspended from the South African National Defence Force (SANDF) after rioting in the capital, Pretoria, in 2009 to demand higher wages.

Mr Malema said he would never conspire to unseat the government through undemocratic means.

However, South Africa was showing the symptoms of a dictatorship and the constitution was under threat from the executive, he said.

The decision to put the army on high alert was an over-reaction and showed the same instinct that led police to kill 34 miners at the Marikana platinum mine on 16 August, Mr Malema said.

The soldiers were suspended from the South African National Defence Force (SANDF) after rioting in the capital, Pretoria, in 2009 to demand higher wages.

The government had taken an extraordinary step by putting the army on high alert and it showed Mr Malema's apparent power, the BBC's Andrew Harding reports from Johannesburg.

Mr Malema was expelled from the ruling African National Congress (ANC) party in April, and is under investigation for alleged corruption.

He has seized on the Marikana killings to launch a ferocious campaign against South Africa's elites, our reporter says.

Ms Mapisa-Nqakula accused Mr Malema of "agitating people to become ungovernable".

"It cannot be allowed to happen in the SANDF," she said.

South Africa is in a jittery mood right now, partly because of fears that labour unrest could spread, and partly because the government appears preoccupied with infighting, as factions plot to unseat President Jacob Zuma, our correspondent says.

Mr Malema has been campaigning for Mr Zuma to be ousted as ANC leader at its national conference due in December.

Meanwhile, Anglo American Platinum (Amplats), the world's biggest platinum producer, said it had suspended operations at a mine in South Africa's North West province.

Police said miners were rioting, setting up barricades to enforce a strike.

The Marikana mine, owned by Lonmin, the third biggest platinum producer, is in the same area and production there was halted last month.

Mr Zuma has appointed a commission of inquiry to investigate the conflict at the mine.

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