THE disciplinary action against axed African National Congress (ANC) Youth League president Julius Malema was invalid because it exceeded the six-month period allowed by the party's constitution.

This was one of the key arguments in Mr Malema's heads of arguments presented on Wednesday to the ANC national disciplinary committee of appeals as he fought to save his political career, after the party terminated his membership. The ANC is to file opposing arguments today.

Mr Malema argued the disciplinary committee had breached several clauses of the ANC's constitution during his mitigation hearing on February 13. He was expelled from the ANC two weeks later, on charges of bringing the party into disrepute and sowing division. Mr Malema is now seeking to overturn the verdict, despite being suspended from the party again, after branding President Jacob Zuma a dictator early this month.

Insiders said Mr Malema also submitted on Wednesday that the two hours allowed the defendants to argue for mitigation was unreasonable; and that the verdict of expulsion was announced without the defendants or their representatives being privy to its contents.

Rule 25.10 of the ANC constitution states that: "All disciplinary proceedings shall be disposed of expeditiously, but within six months from the date that notice of the charge has been delivered to the member, provided that the (appeals committee) may, upon application from the relevant disciplinary committee, in writing, at any stage before or after the expiry of such period extend this period in a particular case, if it deems it necessary".

It is not clear whether this process has been followed. Mr Malema and five other league officials were charged in August last year, with the hearings scheduled to run from August 30 to November 6.

Mr Malema has also called the attitude of the appeals committee into question. In a statement on Tuesday, in which it dismissed the application to lift his temporary suspension, the committee indicated it was "also privy to the evidence of the applicant on record that he showed no remorse and did not agree with the (committee) appeal findings".

This relates to the findings on February 4, in which the appeals committee upheld a guilty verdict against Mr Malema for bringing the ANC into disrepute and sowing division, while the matter was referred back to the disciplinary committee for argument in mitigation of sentence.

Sources close to Mr Malema alleged that the statement on Tuesday meant that the appeals committee had already prejudged that Mr Malema would not show remorse in the current appeal against the expulsion, of which the heads of argument were filed a day after the statement.

It is also disputed whether or not Mr Malema did accept the findings of the appeals committee on February 4. "He has said on numerous occasions that he begged the disciplinary committee to take away his youth league position but keep his ANC membership. This is not consistent with someone not showing remorse," said a source.

Insiders said Mr Malema reiterated on Wednesday that Mr Zuma had pre-empted the outcome of the appeal process when he said in a TV interview the league would have to consider leadership succession in the event that Mr Malema was removed from office. The ANC has rejected these allegations.

Mr Malema's papers highlight that the league's national executive committee has indicated that the comments for which he has been charged had been resolutions of the youth league national conference held last year in June.

stones@bdfm.co.za