POLOKWANE – Firebrand South African politician Julius Malema on Monday demanded his day in court after his long-delayed trial for corruption was once again postponed, three years after he was initially charged.
Malema, who heads the opposition Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF), is accused of fraud, corruption, money-laundering and racketeering linked to a $5 million government contract won six years ago when he was still head of the ruling African National Congress’ youth wing.
But Monday’s court date joined a slew of false starts, with the trial delayed after one of Malema’s four co-accused was absent after being hospitalised last week.
The politician’s lawyers are now pushing to have him tried separately, while the state presses for a postponement to early 2016.
A decision is due to be made in the Polokwane High Court on Tuesday.
“I came here to subject myself to the rule of law,” Malema told a large crowd of supporters clad in the EFF’s signature red T-shirts and berets outside the court.
“I’ve been asking for the last three years: let me have my day in court… I cannot wait any longer. I’ve had this dark cloud over me for too long.”
Malema and four business associates are accused of lying to win a government construction contract in his home province of Limpopo, worth 52 million rand ($4.1 million, 3.7 million euros).
Malema insists the charges are simply “persecution” by his former allies in the ANC.
“You’ve accused me for too long,” he said. “Let me tell my story. Let South Africa know why I am persecuted.”
Booted out of the party for sowing indiscipline three years ago, Malema went on to create the far left Economic Freedom Fighters, which secured 25 parliamentary seats in the 2014 national elections, just months after its formation.
The party has earned a reputation as parliamentary rabble-rousers, frequently disrupting proceedings with chants and protests. – AFP