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South African Ruling Party Fires Controversial Youth Leader

The president of the ruling African National Congress (ANC) youth league, Julius Malema, delivers a speech in Soweto, South Africa. (File Photo - May 15, 2011)

South Africa's ruling party has fired the controversial leader of its youth league after finding him guilty of sowing division and damaging the party's reputation.

The African National Congress also handed Julius Malema a five-year suspension during a disciplinary hearing in Johannesburg on Thursday.

The chairman of the disciplinary panel, Derek Hanekom, said Malema, 30, has been "ill-disciplined" and has shown "arrogance and defiance."

Since becoming the ANC's youth leader three years ago, Malema has often made headlines with fiery rhetoric and policy demands.

He called for the nationalization of South African mines - a stance at odds with ANC policy. And he called for "regime change" in Botswana, South Africa's democratic neighbor and ANC ally.

This year, a court found him guilty of hate speech for singing a banned anti-apartheid song with lyrics that can be interpreted as "shoot the white farmer."

Malema has also suggested that former President Thabo Mbeki is a better leader than current President Jacob Zuma, a one-time Malema ally.

Malema said Thursday that he will appeal the ANC's ruling.

A spokesman says Malema will remain on the payroll of South Africa's ruling party, pending the outcome of his appeal.

VOA reporter Delia Robertson is following the story. From Johannesburg, she spoke to Joe De Capua about why Melama was suspended. To hear the debriefer, click on the link below.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP and Reuters.