JOHANNESBURG, South Africa — Military bases in South Africa are on high alert over a planned meeting between rabble-rousing politician Julius Malema and soldiers.
This is the first time in 18 years of democracy that South African defense forces have gone on high alert, according to the Johannesburg-based Times newspaper.
Malema, who was expelled from South Africa's ruling African National Congress party, is expected to meet with soldiers today near a military base in Lenasia, south of Johannesburg. In a statement issued yesterday, Malema said he would address soldiers after hearing their "cries and demands."
The Times reported that security briefings with several top government ministers were held last night. Defense Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula warned that ill-discipline in the South African military was a threat to the country's security.
In recent weeks Malema has met with workers at various gold and platinum mines, calling for them to make the country's mines "ungovernable" by downing tools until their R12,500 (about $1,500) wage demand is met.
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On Tuesday he called for a national strike at mines, telling crowd of cheering miners on a wildcat strike at the Gold Fields mine near Carletonville, west of Johannesburg, that "enough is enough."
Malema has sought to gain political capital from public anger over last month's deaths of workers at the Lonmin-owned Marikana platinum mine. On August 16, police shot dead 34 striking miners in an incident some have called the "Marikana massacre."
Strikes have since interrupted production at several gold and platinum mines in South Africa, a country with rich mineral resources and the continent's largest economy.
Malema, an outspoken proponent of nationalization of the country's mining industry, was kicked out of the ANC last year after being found guilty by a party disciplinary committee of "sowing divisions" and “bringing the ANC into disrepute."
He is a former leader of the ANC's youth wing, which was instrumental in bringing President Jacob Zuma to power. But Malema and Zuma have since fallen out and become bitter enemies.
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