Defiant Malema charged with money launderingBy: Justine Gerardy
POLOKWANE – Populist firebrand Julius Malema was charged with money laundering and released on bail yesterday as angry supporters derided what they said was a politically motivated show trial. The former ANC high-flyer was charged with “money laundering, of receiving the proceeds of unlawful activities,” government prosecutor Billy Moalosi told the court.
The charges against Malema and his business colleagues detail a complex pyramid of companies accused of lying and influence peddling to gain an infrastructure contract in Malema’s home province of Limpopo, worth N$52 million.
The proceeds are alleged to have been used to help buy Malema a Mercedes Benz Viano and a large farm.
A police spokesperson said the charge could result in up to 15 years in prison and a large fine.
Malema did not enter a plea yesterday, but after being released on bail of N$10 000 he defiantly told supporters that the case was punishment for a high-profile spat with his former African Nationalsit Congress comrades and its leader, President Jacob Zuma.
“Some people have taken a decision to conspire against me and bring some charges,” he said waving his fist to cheers.
“They are trying to get something against me, they are sent by Jacob Zuma.”
Police had issued an arrest warrant for the former ANC Youth League leader on Friday, shortly after he seized on unrest at South Africa’s mines to launch political attacks against Zuma.
Malema voluntarily turned himself in yesterday, appearing first at a police station and then in court, where, sporting a dark suit, red tie and white shirt, he appeared relaxed.
At one point during the proceedings Malema turned and smiled to gathered supporters.
Meanwhile hundreds of his fans waited outside, many waving combative placards. One warned “all hell will break lose” if he is found guilty.
The case was adjourned to November 30.
Ahead of his appearance, police beefed up security around the courthouse and police station, unfurling coils of razor wire and forcing road closures.
Police warned they would not tolerate any violence.
“No lawlessness will be tolerated and those who break the law will be arrested immediately,” police spokesman Hangwani Mulaudzi said, adding that firearms, knives, machetes and sticks were banned.
In a country racked with poverty and inequality, Malema’s combative rhetoric has struck a chord with some.
But it has also proved embarrassing for ANC leaders and in particular Zuma, who faces a possible leadership challenge in December and who has at times appeared to struggle to rein in his younger nemesis.
The party booted Malema in April for ill-discipline and after he was convicted of hate speech in a civil case last year, although he still retains a power base within the ANC Youth League.
The League has been highly influential in South African politics, acting as a crucible for the careers of Nelson Mandela, Walter Sisulu and Oliver Tambo.
Despite his pro-poor stance, Malema’s love of luxury has raised eyebrows. He is a lover of designer clothes and fast cars, lives in an upmarket Johannesburg suburb, and owns a Breitling watch worth some N$250 000.
Malema’s ostentatious wealth may yet prove his undoing.
He is also the subject of a separate tax probe. The country’s revenue service told AFP on Tuesday it had been granted an order to recover back taxes Malema allegedly owes.
Malema owed at least N$16 million, spokeswoman Marika Muller said.
Malema’s court appearance was not related to tax evasion, she added.