Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 25 December 2014

Malema bailed over fraud charge

Julius Malema enters court escorted by bodyguards (AP)
Julius Malema enters court escorted by bodyguards (AP)

Firebrand South African politician Julius Malema has proclaimed his innocence after appearing in court charged with money laundering.

"I have nothing to hide. I've never been part of criminal activity," Malema said to a crowd of supporters outside the court building after he made his appearance. "They have nothing against me ... They are wasting time."

He was bailed accused of being involved with a 52 million rand (£4 million) government contract awarded to a company his family trust partly owns.

Malema is the most prominent critic of South African president Jacob Zuma and says the charges are politically motivated at a time when he is being outspoken about the labour unrest in South Africa's mining industry.

He says the charges are meant to shut him up after he threatened to make the mines ungovernable. Malema was expelled from the ruling African National Congress party earlier this year for sowing disunity.

Malema said he was told he would face charges of fraud, corruption and money laundering, but once in court faced only one count of money laundering. The crowd cheered when he said the charge was not serious.

Malema lashed out at Mr Zuma. "You must make sure that Jacob Zuma does not become the president of the ANC," he said, speaking of Mr Zuma's bid to be re-elected the party president later this year. "We must remove him as president and then charge him."

Malema had turned himself into police in Polokwane, in South Africa's north-east, before entering the regional court. Vigils were held through the night for him.

In a separate case, the South African Revenue Service is also charging Malema with unpaid taxes and interest of 16 million rand (£1.2 million.)

Last week police surrounded Malema and threatened to arrest him when he arrived at a stadium to address striking mine workers who were meeting to vote on a wage deal. Malema was forced to leave before addressing the crowd of thousands. Nearly six weeks of strikes by workers at the platinum mine saw violence that killed 46 people.

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