Judge Ephraim Makgoba on Thursday said the case against Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) leader Julius Malema would go ahead next year as scheduled, unless the National Prosecuting Authority decided to drop the charges against him.
It was a quick court appearance for the expelled former ANC Youth League leader, who faces charges of fraud, corruption, money-laundering and racketeering.
It is alleged that he made nearly R4-million from corrupt activities.
Malema is out on R10 000 bail. His four co-accused, his business associates, are out on bail of R40 000 each.
Thursday's court decision was neither here nor there, despite a 15-hour lead up from his supporters at his night vigil.
The state prosecution said the decision whether or not to drop charges was being handled by the national director of public prosecutions (NDPP), who needed time to "apply his mind" to the charges against Malema.
"Due to the voluminous nature of the matter, it was clear that the NDPP needs space [and] time to consider the matter and come to a decision," said the state prosecutor.
The prosecutor said a decision would be made before April 2014, which happened to be ahead of national elections, which the EFF is contesting.
Malema 'cannot wait till September'
Makgoba allowed for the decision to be made, but said Malema must be alerted if charges were dropped, instead of waiting until September 2014 when the rest of his co-accused's trial will begin.
"Obviously the accused cannot wait till September to hear his fate," said Makgoba. "Should it happen charges are held, the trial will continue to September 2014."
If the charges are not dropped, Malema's trial would be heard from September 30 to October 31 next year, giving him a clear shot at the 2014 general national elections.
Meanwhile, the entrance to the court was transformed ahead of Malema's court appearance.
Barbed wire rolled out across surrounding streets and wire fences kept cars out, gridlocking the central business district of the city.
The state alleges that the five misrepresented themselves to the Limpopo roads and transport department, leading to a R52-million contract being awarded to On-Point Engineering.
According to court papers, Malema had business ties with Lesiba Gwangwa, one of the co-accused and a director of On-Point Engineering.
Malema's Ratanang Family Trust was an indirect shareholder in On-Point.
The department paid the company R43-million. According to the charge sheet, Malema substantially benefited from this payment, using it to buy a farm and a Mercedes-Benz.
But the mechanisms of Malema's alleged implication in corrupt activities are largely lost on his supporters. Many told the Mail & Guardian at the pre-court vigil on Wednesday that charges against Malema were laughable. "How can he have taken money if he wasn't in government?" they asked.
Malema's latest legal appointment
"Latest: Private business cannot be corrupt!" tweeted Science and Technology Minister Derek Hanekom in response to that view. Hanekom chaired the disciplinary committee that eventually expelled Malema from the ANC, and is reviled by EFF supporters.
The weight of proving Malema and co-accused are guilty rests largely with the state prosecution. But they will have their work cut out for them given Malema's latest legal appointment: heavyweight advocate Laurence Hodes SC, eNCA reported.
Hodes walked over the state prosecution when he defended Glenn Agliotti in 2010, surprising everyone when the reported crime lord walked free thanks to lack of provable evidence against him, which Hodes exposed.
But Hodes will have to wait for the NDPP to decide whether or not charges will be held against Malema to test his skills. And that could take up to four months.
Mpofu arrived at court
Meanwhile, earlier on Thursday, Dali Mpofu arrived at the court to support Malema.
Sporting a red EFF beret, red shirt and black jacket, Mpofu joined other Malema supporters waiting near the court entrance for Malema to arrive.
Mpofu is the lawyer representing the wounded and arrested Marikana mineworkers at the Farlam commission of inquiry into the shooting at the Lonmin platinum mine near Rustenburg last year, when 34 people were killed.
He recently announced he had resigned from the ANC to join the EFF.
A large contingent of international and local journalists also gathered outside the court.
Earlier on Thursday, hundreds of EFF members blew vuvuzelas and some waved knobkerries as they chanted songs against President Jacob Zuma.
"Muso wa Zuma reya o menola [we will unseat Zuma's government]," they sang.
Traffic was bumper-to-bumper, with streets around the court closed. – Additional reporting by Sapa