National

'No butterflies' for Malema over racketeering charge

Sandy Moeketsi, Miranda Andrew

Julius Malema seemed unconcerned that racketeering charges were added to other charges against him in the high court in Polokwane on Friday.

Julius Malema. (Gallo)

Speaking to supporters a street away from the court, Malema said racketeering charges were serious and threatened life imprisonment, but he "had no butterflies in his stomach" over the matter.

Earlier, the court heard that a charge of racketeering had been added to an initial charge of money-laundering.

He updated the crowd on proceedings that took place in court and thanked them for their support. He led the crowd in song and dance shortly afterwards.

The matter against Malema and his co-accused was postponed to April 23 2013.

The crowd held a night vigil on Thursday night to show support for Malema.

Wearing a dark suit with a striking red tie, Malema sat with his hands comfortably on his lap ahead of proceedings at the high court in Polokwane on Friday.

The axed ANC Youth League president greeted members of the media with a warm smile, getting up to shake hands with some.

Outside the court, police presence was high as promised.

Rolls of barbed wire and heavily armed police officers were placed at the entrance and surrounding areas.

A street away from the court, loud music was heard where Malema supporters had gathered since Thursday night.

No disruptions were reported.

According to court papers Malema had clear business ties with On-Point Engineers director Lesiba Gwangwa.

Gwangwa and three others appeared in court earlier and were granted R40 000 bail each on charges including fraud, corruption and money laundering. The state charges that the four misrepresented themselves to the Limpopo department of roads and transport, and a R52-million tender was awarded to On-Point.

The court heard that another R1-million gratification was paid for the securing of the tender. The fraud charges also relate to designs owned by the department. The state did not oppose bail, saying the accused had cooperated with authorities and were not a flight risk.

The court papers said Malema benefited from the tender by using it to fund a farm worth R3.9-million and to make a payment of R382 655 for a Mercedez Viano. " ... Most of the payments ... were channelled through other entities ... to pay for the farm ..."

Bid documents submitted by On-Point Engineers to the department contained several misrepresentations. On-Point pretended to be an established and experienced multi-disciplinary firm, when it was not. "... [I]t was falsely stated that On-Point had nine years experience in business when, in fact, the company existed for about one month at the time of submission of the bid."

Names given as executive and senior people at On-Point were for people not employed there. Another alleged misrepresentation was the furnishing of a tax clearance certificate of a shelf company as that of On-Point. "On Point would not have been awarded the said contract, had they provided the correct information," says the charge sheet.

On-Point and Gwangwa had a duty to appoint and manage service providers to do projects on behalf of the department. On-Point entered into secret agreements with service providers and in return received sums of money for it.

Court papers said the conduct amounted to "corrupt activities" relating to the procuring and withdrawal of tenders.

The four companies charged were On-Point, Gwama Properties, Segwalo Engineering and Oceanside Trading.

Public protector Thuli Madonsela reported that Malema made millions from the tender. Though Madonsela could not find any evidence that Malema interfered in the tender process, she found that he benefited "improperly" from the contract.

Her investigation found that On-Point acted corruptly by signing back-to-back agreements with subcontractors.

Madonsela recommended that the tender be immediately cancelled, that the National Prosecuting Authority and the Asset Forfeiture Unit consider criminal action, and that the master of the high court investigate the flow of money into Malema's trust. – Sapa

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