The trial of Economic Freedom Fighter (EFF) Leader Julius Malema and his co-accused was postponed by the Polokwane High Court on Tuesday.
Prosecutor Andrew Laka asked the court to postpone the trial because some counsel were not available. “The case is postponed to August 3, 2015 for trial,” Judge Ephraim Makgoba said.
Malema and his two co-accused On-Point Engineering directors Lesiba Gwangwa and Kagisho Dichabe face charges of racketeering and 52 other counts, including fraud.
In March, corruption charges against Malema’s business associates – Selbie Manthatha, his wife Helen Moreroa and his brother Makgetsi Manthatha – were discharged. The two brothers and Moreroa were initially charged with Malema, Gwangwa and Dichabe in September 2012. They were accused of misrepresenting themselves to the Limpopo roads and transport department, leading to a R52-million contract being awarded to On-Point Engineering.
It was alleged in court papers that Malema, who was expelled from the ANC Youth League before forming the EFF, had business ties with Gwangwa, and that Malema’s Ratanang Family Trust was an indirect shareholder in On-Point. The State alleged that Malema substantially benefited from the tender payment of R43-million to On-Point, using it to buy a farm and a Mercedes-Benz. The trial is expected to be heard from Tuesday to October 31. Malema is out on R10 000 bail. The others are on bail of R40 000 each.
Support from EFF MPs
EFF MPs Floyd Shivambu and Mbuyiseni Ndlozi arrived at the high court in Polokwane on Tuesday ahead of their leader Julius Malema’s court appearance, which was later postponed. EFF MPs Godrick Gardee and Mpho Ramakatsa were also attending the trial. The streets around the court were barricaded with barbed wire. Police monitored the streets and entrance to the court. Police helicopters circled above. A street up from the court, next to the police station, a stage had been erected where Malema was expected to address his supporters after his appearance.
EFF supporters held a night vigil for their leader at the Nirvana Hall in Polokwane on Monday night. They marched to the police station from the hall on Tuesday morning. More than 100 supporters stood whistling and dancing.
Outspoken against corruption
The EFF has been outspoken against corruption and has accused the ruling ANC of “chronic kleptomania” of public funds. On Monday, EFF spokesperson Mbuyiseni Ndlozi said the party would call for President Jacob Zuma to face corruption charges and pay back public funds spent on upgrades to his homestead in Nkandla, KwaZulu-Natal. When the party was launched in July last year, Malema said the EFF was founded on the principle of anti-corruption.
If Malema were convicted, he would lose his seat in Parliament.
Following his appearance on Tuesday, Malema walked up the road to where his supporters were waiting in cheer.
He was accompanied by EFF MPs. EFF spokesperson Mbuyiseni Ndlozi began chanting “Hands off our commander and chief, hands off”. Malema said: “I tried to plead with them that I should be separated… and tried alone. If others are not ready I am, the State must bring this case closer.”
Malema told the crowd he was not afraid and had nothing to hide. “We have nothing to fear. We want this case to be held as in yesterday because we have nothing to hide. If they had a case they would have trialled [sic] us long ago.”
He said his lawyer had asked the judge to try Malema earlier but was told there was no sooner available date. Malema took the opportunity to accuse Gauteng judge president Dunstan Mlambo of interfering in matters that involved the EFF. He named a few cases including his own.
ANC has become ‘irrelevant’
He warned Mlambo and said he would write to the Judicial Service Commission regarding his “conduct”. “They must never think we don’t know what they up to. The State is against us… but don’t be scared we will overcome.”
Malema also took a swipe at the ANC and President Jacob Zuma. He said the ANC was no longer relevant. “My ambition is to show that there is life outside the ANC. “They try by all means to isolate you and make sure you become irrelevant. We want to challenge the ANC and show society that the ANC has become irrelevant.”
He said the governing party did not lead any discussions in society, unlike the EFF. Malema said in future people would remember the ANC because of allegations of corruption. “The ANC is at its weakest point in history.” EFF members had to submit themselves to parliamentary discipline but Malema said it was Zuma who should be facing a disciplinary hearing because he had “brought Parliament into disrepute”. However, “those who do right get punished and those who do wrong get celebrated”, he said. – Sapa