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Malema charged with money-laundering

Sep 26 2012 11:11

Julius Malema (File, AP)

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Polokwane - ANC renegade Julius Malema was charged with money-laundering on Wednesday in a high-profile corruption court case his supporters say is part of a political plot to silence the fierce critic of President Jacob Zuma.

Prosecutors at the provincial magistrates’ court in Polokwane, 350 km north of Johannesburg, said Malema had “improperly received” R4.2m in a conspiracy involving government tenders.

But they did not file any other charges, contrary to media reports that he also faced trial for fraud and corruption.

Scores of police deployed razor wire to block more than 1 000 Malema supporters from entering the police station and court in Polokwane, the capital of Malema’s native Limpopo province.

The trial of Malema, who has backed wildcat miners’ strikes and has been pushing for nationalisation of the mines, is seen as one of the biggest since apartheid ended and Nelson Mandela’s ANC took power in 1994.

The 31-year-old, who appeared in a grey suit and white shirt, was ordered released on bail of R10 000 after a 10-minute hearing.

Malema, ousted as leader of the ANC Youth League (ANCYL) in April for ill-discipline, has returned from the political wilderness with a vengeance in the past several weeks, stepping up public criticism against Zuma and the ANC hierarchy.

The ANC rebel had been under investigation for months for suspected corruption, fraud and money-laundering relating to government contracts his political allies secured in Limpopo - a province where the Treasury says hundreds of millions of rands go missing each year due to suspected graft.

His penchant for luxury cars, flashy Swiss watches and champagne parties has also attracted the attention of the South African Revenue Service, which said at the weekend he owed near R16m in unpaid taxes.

Supporters denounce "abuse of power"

Malema has blamed Zuma’s government for police shooting dead 34 striking platinum miners on August 16 at Lonmin’s Marikana mine in the deadliest security incident since the end of apartheid.

“This case is an abuse of power by Zuma against Malema,” supporter Sonett Masemola told Reuters outside the court.

Malema’s backers held a raucous vigil on Tuesday night. Many said he was being brought to trial to sideline him ahead of an ANC leadership vote in December where Zuma is seeking re-election as head of the dominant party in South Africa.

“He gets more support than President Zuma because he is more in touch with the people and more intelligent,” said Luterdo Mothurwane, dressed in ANCYL garb.

Zuma’s “man of the people” image took a knock during the government’s sluggish response to the Marikana shootings, with Malema emerging as the head of an “Anyone But Zuma” campaign seeking to remove the president in December.

Malema used the mine shooting to pillory Zuma, saying the polygamous president spent more time dealing with his personal life than the poverty and inequality that blights Africa’s biggest economy 18 years after the end of white-minority rule.

He has also revived calls for the state to take over the mines, a sector that accounts for about 6% of gross domestic product. The government has dismissed the idea, saying it would bankrupt the country.

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julius malema  |  corruption  |  fraud



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