South Africa's ruling ANC has temporarily removed party rebel Julius Malema from his role as president of its Youth League and is barring him from attending party meetings, it said in a statement on Wednesday.

The move escalates the party fight with Malema, who has been expelled from the African National Congress for breaking party rules but allowed to stay in his post and attend meetings for months as his appeals have wound their way through party committees.

If Malema loses his appeal, he will be formally expelled from the party that dominates the country's politics. He is scheduled to have an appeals hearing next week.

The ANC reprimanded Malema on Tuesday, angrily condemning his assertion made last week that President Jacob Zuma's government is a dictatorship.

The temporary and immediate suspension of comrade Malema will come into effect on Wednesday, 4 April, an ANC disciplinary panel said in a statement.

(Reporting by Jon Herskovitz)