Malema: A case so infamous it has its own website

Julius Malema's legal team says it will set up a dedicated website to deal with queries. (Daniel Edyegu, M&G)

Julius Malema's legal team says it will set up a dedicated website to deal with queries. (Daniel Edyegu, M&G)

In a press statement released on Tuesday morning, Brian Kahn Inc said that over the past few days it had received hundreds of text, emails and telephone queries from journalists, and that it was simply not possible to respond to each of these in a meaningful way.

"It would be unrealistic to disregard the media in what may well be a lengthy process in which the media, quite legitimately, has an intense interest. As a result thereof, and in an effort to balance competing demands and interests, this firm will set up a dedicated website in which we will, as and when we consider it appropriate, publish reports for the benefit of the media [primarily] and anyone else who wishes to access the website."

The law firm will also set up a dedicated email address for media enquiries concerning the case.

Embracing the internet
Malema, who has in the past shown disdain for the media in general and the internet in particular, has in recent months taken steps to reclaim his online reputation.

In 2010, Malema threatened to shut down Twitter but earlier this month, he reclaimed his Twitter handle, @Julius_S_Malema, and began posting to the social media platform. As of September 25, Malema had 225 122 followers.

The move appears to be an attempt by Malema to have a say in how he is represented in the media.

Sam Beckbessinger, strategic planner at e-marketing company Quirk, told the M&G reclaiming his Twitter account gives Malema the opportunity to talk back.

"It makes the conversation two way.
It gives him his own voice," she said.

Beckbessinger pointed out that even when Malema was not talking on his own behalf online, there were people talking for him. "Some of it wasn't satirical," she pointed out.

"There have been so many people speaking online on his behalf for so long, it says something about the fact that people want him to have a voice," she added. 

In the first post on the website, juliusmalema.co.za, the site is described as a place to "get my responses to lies published by the media and journalists who want to sell papers and score points" and "a platform for us to engage in discussions and for the public to see into me". 

"No spin doctoring or reprimands from some outgoing goatee bearded SG [secretary general],"he says.

The site has been active since February this year but its authenticity has not been confirmed.

Charges unclear
Malema was charged on Friday September 21 and Hawks investigating officer Colonel William Mahlangu requested that he present himself in Polokwane.

Malema's lawyer Nicqui Galaktiou said he would voluntarily appear in court on Wednesday.

"By arrangement with the NPA [National Prosecuting Authority] Mr Malema will appear in the Polokwane Regional Court on Wednesday," Galaktiou said.

Galaktiou could not confirm reports that the charges involved corruption in government tenders, saying she had not seen the charge sheet or a detailed arrest warrant.

Malema has used the ongoing mining strikes, which have led to dozens of deaths, to attack his enemies within the ANC.

Further compounding Malema's woes, he is also the subject of a separate tax probe and the South African Revenue Service (Sars) said on Tuesday that it had been granted an order to recover back taxes Malema allegedly owes.

The authority said Malema owed at least R16-million, Sars spokesperson Marika Muller said.

Malema's court appearance was not related to tax evasion, she added.

The youth league condemned the "use of state resources to settle political scores" against Malema.

"The fact that even some ministers intimated knowledge of the charges points to political interference in the administration of justice and it must be condemned," the league said.

Tender connections
Four men linked with Malema were to appear in court later on Tuesday.

Hawks spokesperson McIntosh Polela confirmed that an investigation against the men and their three companies was launched in August last year but would not confirm their identities or links ahead of the court appearance.

He said the charges were of fraud, money-laundering and corruption, in connection with government tenders in Polokwane, the capital of Malema's home province Limpopo, in the north of the country.

Both supporters and detractors are expected to protest outside the court when he makes his appearance. The Friends of the Youth League have also stated they will hold a vigil for Malema in Polokwane on Tuesday night.

Meanwhile, the City Press reported that four people, including Malema's business partner Lesiba Gwangwa, handed themselves over to police. The four are expected to appear in the Polokwane Magistrates' Court.

Gwangwa is the chief executive of On-Point Engineering, the company believed to be at the centre of contested R52-million tender from the Limpopo roads and transport department.

Faranaaz Parker

Faranaaz Parker

Faranaaz Parker is a reporter for the Mail & Guardian. She writes on everything from pop science to public health, and believes South Africa needs carbon taxes and more raging feminists. When she isn't instagramming pictures of her toddler or obsessively checking her Twitter, she plays third-person shooters on Xbox Live. Read more from Faranaaz Parker

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