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ANC Youth League Leader Stirs Controversy in Support of Jacob Zuma

In South Africa, controversy is brewing over statements made by the leader of the African National Congress Youth League, Julius Malema, who has said he would "kill for Jacob Zuma." As a result, the ANC's National Executive Committee is asking Zuma, the party's president, to take action. Some say, though, that Zuma is not being tough enough.

VOA reporter Delia Robertson is following the story. From Johannesburg, she spoke to English to Africa Service reporter Joe De Capua about the

"He has been making some quite extraordinary statements, actually, that experts say, given the levels of violence in this country, could encourage violence. He urged youth league supporters, at one point, to kill for Zuma, saying, "I'm prepared to die for Zuma. I'm prepared the kill for Zuma."

The ANC president is expected to be the party's candidate in presidential elections next year.

Some believe that Malema is actually speaking on behalf of the SACP (South African Communist Party) and COSATU (Congress of South African Trade Unions).

Robertson says, "I think they're quite capable of speaking for themselves. And it may be that he finds himself more aligned to COSATU and the SACP than he does to his current organization. Although after that particular statement that I mentioned earlier, Mr. Zuma himself spoke to Mr. Malema and asked him to be careful about the things he said. In fact, it's very difficult to believe that a lot of statements coming out of the youth league and even from Mr. Zuma's supporters in COSATU and the SACP do not carry his tacit approval."

However, she says that this does not mean Zuma knew about the comments in advance. "What I am saying is that Mr. Zuma is contesting very vigorously and strongly to become South Africa's president next year. And the groups that support him most vociferously in that quest are the ANC Youth League, the South African Communist Party and COSATU. And they are waging an extremely vigorous campaign and drawing in all kinds of different groupings to protest, to act in support him, such as at his court appearances and so on," she says.

Jacob Zuma faces corruption charges stemming from a large arms deal at the time he was deputy president. On Friday, the ANC Youth League in KwaZulu-Natal staged a demonstration in support of Zuma.

Robertson says, "While he may not know in advance what people are saying, he doesn't come out afterwards and very publicly ands very definitely object to what they're saying. When he corrects a statement or admonishes someone it seems to be quite half-hearted.