Julius Malema proclaimed his innocence after being granted bail by the Polokwane Regional Court, where he faced a charged of money-laundering.
The legal case before Malema has done little to deter the expelled ANC Youth League leader from his speechmaking and appearances at the country’s troubled mines.
On Wednesday afternoon Malema said: "Attempts to silence our political activities and involvement will never succeed because we carry a revolutionary obligation to speak on behalf of the oppressed and downtrodden masses."
Malema said he would visit mineworkers in the North West on Thursday to pledge solidarity to workers who are protesting for better wages.
Malema, who believes senior government officials had prompted law enforcement authorities to arrest him in order to silence him and disrupt his political activities, said: "The struggle for economic freedom is in motion and no amount of suppression and intimidations will silence us."
Malema appeared inthe Polokwane Magistrate Court on Wednesday morning to answer to charges of money laundering. He pleaded not guilty and was granted bail of R10 000. The case was postponed until November 30.
With apparent reference to President Jacob Zuma's corruption case, and to Zuma's former financial advisor, Malema has said he would cooperate with law enforcement authorities and would not seek to delay court proceedings.
"It is very strange that some political leaders who are compromised and insisted that my arrest be expedited are the ones who should respond to more than 700 charges of corruption, fraud and money laundering with an almost 100% chance of conviction because the corruptor has already been convicted and sentenced to a prison term," he said.
This was a reference to what Judge Hillary Squires once termed the "generally corrupt" relationship between Zuma and convicted fraudster Schabir Shaik.
'Bring me my iPad'
Earlier on Wednesday, in an address to supporters outside the Polokwane court, Malema proclaimed his innocence.
Malema said he was "prepared to answer any question and every question" because he was not hiding anything.
"We are not like the head of state who runs away and calls for 'umshini wami' [machine guns] to shoot the courts. We want a laptop and an iPad so that we can prepare our answers. Only criminals will run away," he said.
He said his business associates, who appeared in the same court on Tuesday, were being punished because they were his allies. His supporters would also be punished.
On Tuesday, four of Malema's co-accused appeared in court and were granted bail of R40 000 each. They are accused of fraud, corruption and money-laundering, relating to a R52-million tender awarded to On-Point Engineers. Four companies were also charged.
Malema said his supporters needed to make sure President Jacob Zuma was not re-elected at the ANC's national conference in Mangaung.
"We must make sure Jacob Zuma does not become [remain] president of the ANC ... Remove him as a president," he said.
"Zuma has 700 charges against him. I only have one." He said Zuma had to be officially charged and arrested.
Malema thanked the crowd for its support and for a night vigil held for him on Tuesday.
"Comrades, I want to thank all of you for the support ... and all of you who prayed that sanitation [sic] will prevail."
He thanked the ANC Youth League's leadership, in particular spokesperson Magdalene Moonsamy, for continuing to fight for him against the media.
He also thanked his family, and especially his grandmother, who he said continued to receive threats.
"She has always said to me ... if you believe in it, continue to fight for it."
He thanked the ANC provincial leadership for supporting him against "politically motivated charges".
"All of you, your efforts are recognised," he said.
He also thanked his lawyer, who he said had represented him despite criticism from other white people.
"They want justice to be served. That is why they took a decision to represent me ... and my team will be victorious."
Malema said all institutions of government were investigating him. "I am subjected to harassment ... and the media are taking sides. We will never tolerate dictatorship," he said.
"They put so many millions on one person and they can't get anything."
A number of investigations
The case involving Malema and his associates was being investigated by the Hawks, the National Prosecuting Authority, the Special Investigating Unit, the national treasury and the South African Revenue Services.
He said certain members of the media conspired with the "dictatorship" against him and that they would not cover certain events, in the same way police had prevented him from addressing mine workers at Marikana.
The ANC have denied accusations that the charges brought against Malema were politically motivated.
"We reject this accusation with contempt, as it is misleading and seeking to undermine the rule of law and jurisprudence of the country," spokesperson Jackson Mthembu said.
"We want to appeal to our structures and to all South Africans to refrain from using inflammatory and unsubstantiated accusations against the ANC and the government agencies."
Mthembu said: "In relation to charges favoured against [Malema] we want to state it categorically that the ANC, its president comrade Jacob Zuma and its leadership have no role in the charges."
The ANC called on those who had evidence of the abuse of state powers and its agencies to submit evidence in court as part of the defence.
Mthembu said the ANC was confident that the court would do its job without political motivation.
"It is evident that anybody that suggests the abuse of state powers is trying to water down the implications inherent in the charges and prejudging the case before it has even started," he said.
"Let's allow the law to take its course, and presume everyone appearing before the courts innocent until proven guilty."
Journalists barred from court
Meanwhile, the South African National Editors Forum (Sanef) has expressed concern over journalists being forcibly removed from the court.
"We have asked the SAPS [South African Police Service] for an explanation and for an undertaking that journalists will be guaranteed access to the proceedings without the threat of harassment or intimidation," Sanef said.
"Should reporters on the scene face further exclusion from the courtroom, or the use of force by SAPS or other security personnel, we will take legal action."
Certain media houses made applications to be allowed into the court, but reporters were removed after officials insisted that the applications were for individuals and not crews.
Pandemonium broke out when journalists were forcibly removed. One was physically dragged out by two security guards. Some journalists were later allowed back inside.
Sanef said it understood that only news camera crews and photographers had to apply for permission to use their equipment in court.
"But this was used as a pretext to compel the removal of all reporters, including print and radio journalists who were not in possession of such equipment," it said. "Some, but not all, were subsequently readmitted."
Sanef said the principle of open justice was fundamental to the credibility of the country's legal system.
Song and dance
Earlier in the day supporters of Malema welcomed him into the court with song and dance.
Malema's family and supporters stood up in court and sang loudly when he entered the dock.
They sang: "Asani mahloni" [We are not ashamed]. Court officials did not stop the singing.
Suspended league spokesperson Floyd Shivambu, suspended secretary general Sindiso Magaqa and senior youth league members joined the dancing. Supporters outside the court were adamant that Malema had done nothing wrong.
"There is nothing wrong [with what]... our leader did. If he did anything wrong why [is this case happening] now?" asked a supporter.
"It is because we are going to Mangaung. This is just a plan to sabotage our leader."
Thulani Motsepe (23), from Germiston said he took a taxi to Polokwane on Tuesday because he felt he needed to show the world that Malema was innocent.
Malema's supporters believed their presence would have an impact on the charges against him. "I came all the way from the inner city branch in Johannesburg, just to prove that there is no case against my leader," said 27-year-old Xolelwa Ngele.
A placard carried by supporters read: "Hands-off our leader, he did nothing wrong."
When Malema arrived at the court, some of his supporters ran towards the court fence, jostling to get a glimpse of him.
Lethabo Mandela (57), from Seshego joined the crowed in song and dance. She said she was prepared to die for Malema.
"Julius, I love you and I will support you until I die. I'm prepared to die for you. Police can come and kill me," said Mandela, who joined the ANC in 1984. She said charges against Malema should be dropped, like the corruption charges against President Jacob Zuma.
The crowd sang songs in favour of Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe, while mocking Zuma. About 600 supporters gathered outside the court.
Roads leading to the court were closed on Wednesday and police were monitoring the situation.
There was barbed wire outside the court and police Nyalas were positioned in various places surrounding the court. – Sapa