The African National Congress expelled the party's youth leader late Wednesday, the latest attempt to control a figure who has angered his elders with his militant rhetoric and persistent questioning of policy.
The timing of the announcement illustrated the rift between Julius Malema and his party. It had been expected much earlier Wednesday but, according to South African media reports, was delayed for hours because Malema did not present himself at ANC headquarters in Johannesburg to hear his fate before it was released to the public.
Malema's Youth League had said its members would have no comment on the announcement. Malema could appeal, or try to campaign as an outsider for influence.
Malema's youth wing is known for getting voters to the polls and using its weight to choose party leaders. Malema is credited with helping President Jacob Zuma come to power in 2009.
The party's disciplinary committee ruled in November that Malema had sown intolerance and disunity within the party, and sentenced him to a five-year suspension. Malema appealed, and ended up with a much tougher sentence _ expulsion.
In a lengthy statement, the disciplinary committee referred to him as a "repeat offender" who had been reprimanded in 2010.
"He has now been found guilty of two serious offenses in under two years ... ; has shown no remorse; is not prepared to be disciplined by the ANC and is not prepared to respect the disciplinary machinery of the organization," the committee said, adding that as a consequent of his expulsion from the parent body, his membership and presidency of the Youth League also would end.
Some league members had vowed to stand by Malema no matter what the ANC said, but others are reportedly vying to succeed him.
The ANC's Youth League has portrayed itself as the voice of South Africa's poor, young majority and the early stages of the 30-year-old Malema's disciplinary hearings had seen protests by his supporters. But he has since struggled to draw crowds, despite seizing on issues of importance to many South Africans: jobs and fighting poverty.
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.
Since 2009, Malema has questioned Zuma's leadership, one of the reasons he was initially hauled before the disciplinary committee. He was found guilty on charges related to comments about Zuma and about the government's support for neighboring Botswana, which the ANC Youth League had labeled imperialist.
The charges concerned relatively narrow issues, compared to the broader debates Malema has sparked. Critics say Malema has drawn too much negative publicity to the party through his racially divisive remarks.
In September, Malema lost a suit brought by a white rights group that had accused him of hate speech for repeatedly singing a song some whites find offensive.
Malema and others say "Shoot the Boer" is a call to resist oppression. "Boer" means farmer in Afrikaans, and is sometimes used to refer to whites. Malema and his supporters have continued to sing the song despite a court order banning it.
He also has repeatedly defied more senior party leaders by arguing the country's mines should be nationalized, and land forcibly seized from whites and given to blacks.