PRETORIA, South Africa (AP) — The embattled youth leader of South Africa's governing party who claims to speak for a frustrated generation used what he said could be his farewell address Friday to press calls for nationalizing South Africa's economy, a populist stance that has worried potential foreign investors.
Both the president and the finance minister have declared this week that nationalization is not government policy, and they and other leaders have expressed concern about the impact of Julius Malema's insistence on raising the issue. Malema faces suspension from the governing African National Congress Party, and on Friday seemed to be trying to rally his supporters to carry on his fight.
Malema, speaking at the opening of an ANC Youth League retreat, was making his first public appearance since a party appeals body confirmed that he is guilty of serious discipline violations. He was given a chance to argue against a possibly career-ending five-year suspension from the party, but seemed to acknowledge Friday that his options are limited.
"Maybe this is a farewell speech," he said.
Malema's proposals to address the key issues of poverty and unemployment in South Africa have earned him applause from frustrated young South Africans. At the end of his hour-long speech Friday, about 200 top Youth League leaders rose to serenade him with an apartheid-era song commemorating the fighting spirit of young South Africans.
Malema made an oblique reference during his speech to reports his finances are being investigated amid allegations he has peddled his influence over the government in his home province, Limpopo. He has denied accusations he is corrupt.
"We are now preparing for a life outside the ANC, and possibly in prison," Malema said, but added he believed he would ultimately prevail.
The punishment he faces could lead to the ANC calling for him to step down as head of the Youth League. But Malema said Friday he would only step down if the league demanded it.
Malema's youth wing is known for getting voters to the polls and using its weight to choose party leaders.
The ANC, which marks its 100th anniversary this year, has won every national election in South Africa, and most provincial and local votes since apartheid ended in 1994.