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Johannesburg - ANC Youth League leaders in various provinces have rallied around their national president Julius Malema in the wake of a lashing from President Jacob Zuma.
"We are solidly behind the president of the league," Free State provincial secretary Doreen Mahamotse said on Wednesday.
"When you are a leader you will, at all stages, be criticised. Criticism will always be there... that does not mean he is not wanted as the president of the youth league."
Zuma berated Malema at the weekend for his attack on a BBC journalist at a media briefing last week, for continuing to sing "shoot the boer" despite an ANC decision to stop doing so, and for comments he made about slain AWB leader Eugene Terre'Blanche.
Malema's public show of support for Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe's Zanu-PF also annoyed Zuma, who is directly leading efforts to rescue that country's power-sharing agreement.
'Full respect' for Malema
Mahamotse said the Free State's provincial executive committee had not yet discussed Zuma's criticism of the league president.
Northern Cape provincial secretary Dikgang Stock "fully respected" the president's prerogative to chastise Malema, but this did not alter the province's support for him.
"We are fully behind the ANCYL president... we are going to take that support to the next congress (ANCYL's elective congress in 2011)," Stock said.
He said Malema's conceding he fouled up in handling his outburst at a BBC reporter should be applauded.
"He went out in public and said he did not handle the matter properly. We must congratulate him. Everyone must stop looking at (only) the negative things."
Stock expressed disappointment in the league's former leadership in Limpopo, who at a media briefing on Tuesday vowed to reconvene the elective conference at which they were ousted.
The ousted group claims Malema intervened to ensure his preferred candidate was elected at the conference last weekend.
"It shows there are still comrades in the youth league who think they are above the organisation. They must accept defeat and rally behind the new leadership," Stock said.
Mpumalanga's provincial secretary Isaac Mahlangu said issues Zuma raised would be "settled" in ANC structures.
The province's support for Malema, however, remained "solid".
"We still believe that he is doing the job of leading the league as radically and militantly as we want.
"We are the youth league, we wanted militant leadership and we got that with Julius. We will support him for a second term."
The ANCYL will elect new leaders at a national conference in 2011.
According to media reports Malema was being accused of saturating provincial structures with people who supported him to ensure his re-election next year.
The Sowetan on Wednesday reported that Malema faced a "palace coup" with factions rising against him in Gauteng, the Eastern Cape and Limpopo.
Mahlangu said the Mpumalanga regional congresses were "running smoothly". He believed the provincial congress to be held in May would be a success.
"We have not had any interference in our province," he said.
The league in KwaZulu-Natal was waiting for the ANC disciplinary processes against Malema to unfold before commenting.
Provincial secretary Bhekinkosi Mtolo said the province would hold its conference around the end of April.
'We are very emotional'
Western Cape provincial secretary Thandi Mahambehlala declined to comment saying: "You do not speak after the president (of the ANC) has spoken."
North West provincial chairperson Boy-Boy Makgetla welcomed Zuma's criticism, saying that ANC leaders had a responsibility to correct the youth.
"The youth league was established as a radical and militant organisation... we are allowed to (make mistakes)," he said earlier this week, explaining the league may have gone too far this time.
"We were very emotional, we may have (gone) overboard."
However, Makgetla said those wishing Malema away should think again.
"Our president has said he is unshaken and we are with him."
The Eastern Cape and Gauteng youth leagues could not immediately be reached for comment.
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