(MENAFN - Arab News) A South African court postponed yesterday the corruption case against former ANC firebrand Julius Malema, as the state added racketeering to the list of criminal charges against the fallen star of the ruling party.
Magistrate Janine Ungerer postponed the case to April 23, 2013, while Malema's lawyers indicated they intend to argue that the charges are politically motivated.
The adjournment means the case will not be heard before a crunch ANC conference in December that could see President Jacob Zuma, Malema's one-time ally-turned-nemesis, face a leadership challenge. "We plan to argue that there was political influence in charging Mr. Malema. We are aware of a meeting that took place in Cape Town before he was charged," Malema's lawyer Andre Bezuidenhout told the court.
The firebrand was kicked out of the African National Congress earlier this year for sowing indiscipline in the ruling party, appeared before Polokwane Magistrate's Court accused of using his political clout to win public contracts through a complex pyramid of companies.
Malema and his associates are accused of lying and influence-peddling to win an infrastructure contract worth 52 million rand ( 6.3 million). He was initially charged with money laundering, which could result in up to 15 years in prison and a large fine.
Malema, formerly the leader of the ANC's Youth League, has alleged he is being prosecuted as punishment for his high-profile dispute with Zuma.
Malema told his supporters outside court that
he was unfazed by the additional charges of racketeering, insisting that his only crime was exposing a lack of leadership in the ruling party.
"It does not matter whether there is racketeering or not, I am not scared," he said to loud cheers.
He also made his choice for the ANC leadership known as he addressed the crowd of mainly young people.
"We must make sure that Kgalema Motlanthe becomes president. In Mangaung we must not vote for a tribalist," he said in an attack on Zuma.
The court extended Malema's bail of 10,000 rand ( 1,215), which he was given in September.
Malema is one of post-apartheid South Africa's most divisive figures, notorious for his racially charged statements and his calls to nationalize mines and redistribute land and wealth to the black majority.