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Julius Malema of South Africa's ANC in public apology

12 May 10 06:59 GMT

Outspoken South African politician Julius Malema has been forced to make a public apology and been told to undergo anger management by the ruling ANC.

Officials found Mr Malema had brought the party into disrepute by criticising President Jacob Zuma, the ANC's leader.

Mr Malema, the ANC's youth leader, had criticised Mr Zuma for rebuking him over comments he had made publicly backing Zimbabwe leader Robert Mugabe.

In a statement, Mr Malema apologised "unconditionally" for dividing the ANC.

"I accept that as a leader of the ANC and of the ANC Youth League my conduct and public utterances should at all times reflect respect and restraint," he said in his statement of apology.

Mr Malema, 29, was also fined 10,000 rand ($1,300), to be given to a youth project, and warned he would be suspended from the ANC if he transgressed again in the next two years.

Courting controversy

The BBC's Karen Allen in Johannesburg says that although some may see Mr Malema as having got off lightly, disciplinary hearings within the ANC are rare.

The party has been eager to get the matter resolved quickly before the ANC's national executive meets at the end of the week, our correspondent adds.

Mr Malema has repeatedly courted controversy by singing apartheid-era song Shoot the Boer, making a series of uncomplimentary references to political rivals, and most recently by praising Mr Mugabe.

Mr Zuma, who heads regional mediation efforts in Zimbabwe, was forced to apologise on national TV over Mr Malema's comments on the country.

The youth leader was initially cited by ANC officials on three charges - his public support of Mr Mugabe, abusing a BBC journalist, and singing Shoot the Boer after it had been banned.

But South African news agency Sapa reported that the charges were dropped in return for him admitting guilt over his criticism of Mr Zuma.

In March, Mr Malema was found guilty of hate speech for suggesting that a woman who had accused Mr Zuma of rape may have had a "nice time".

The president was acquitted of the charges in 2006.

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