Leaders are not indispensable and could be removed at the wish of those who elected them, ANC Youth League president Julius Malema said on Tuesday.
He told students at the Walter Sisulu University in the Eastern Cape that Alfred Xuma, ANC president in the 1940s, never listened to the youth and was therefore not re-elected to lead the party.
"When president Xuma chased them [the youth] away and accused them of being disrespectful — the same accusation we have today against the leadership of the youth league — they went into the conference of the ANC and they said he cannot be a president again," Malema said.
Malema said at that time, not everybody qualified to be president.
"Today, for you to lead the ANC you have to be a person who has got a good standing in society."
Xuma was seen during his leadership as too conservative by an increasingly impatient and activist youth of that time, including former president Nelson Mandela.
Malema made his first reference to Xuma in public after the ANC slapped him with disciplinary charges.
Malema and the youth league's top five officials are accused of sowing division and bringing the ANC into disrepute.
This relates mainly to their statement about helping to effect regime change in Botswana.
The ANC leadership ignored an apology and pressed ahead with disciplinary action against Malema, his deputy Ronald Lamola, spokesperson Floyd Shivambu, secretary-general Sindiso Magaqa, his deputy Kenetswe Masonogi and treasurer-general Pule Mabe.
At his disciplinary hearing over the weekend, Human Settlements Minister Tokyo Sexwale testified for Malema.
Winnie Madikizela-Mandela and ANC national executive committee member Tony Yengeni were also expected to testify in Malema' defence.