Firebrand Malema charged as South African strikes spread | News | DW | 26.09.2012
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Firebrand Malema charged as South African strikes spread

An outspoken supporter of striking miners in South Africa, Julius Malema, has appeared in court on corruption charges. This comes as AngloGold was forced to stop operations due to work stoppages.

Malema was formally charged with money laundering on Wednesday.

Supporters of the populist firebrand say the high-profile corruption case is politically motivated and is a means to silence the fierce critic of President Jacob Zuma.

"This case is an abuse of power by Zuma against Malema," supporter Sonett Masemola told Reuters news agency outside the provincial magistrates' court in Polokwane, 250 kilometers (220 miles) north Johannesburg.

Supporters say Malema is being brought to trial in a bid to sideline him from an African National Congress (ANC) leadership vote which is due to take place in December and in which Zuma is seeking re-election as party head.

Prosecutors allege Malema "improperly received" 4.2 million rand ($514,000 or 399,400 euros) in a conspiracy involving government tenders.

Police forces erected razor wire to block more than 1,000 of Malema's supporters from gaining access to the court house.

Malema was granted bail after the 10 minute hearing. A further court date was not set.

Strikes roll on

Meanwhile, AngloGold Ashanti has been forced to halt all its operations in South Africa as most of its 35,000 strong mining workforce went on strike, a company spokesperson said on Wednesday.

The unlawful strike, which began last week with several thousand workers laying down tools, now includes "a large majority" of the company's mining employees, a spokesperson for the world's third largest gold producer told news agency dpa.

"The strike is affecting all our six mines," said Alan Fine, adding that workers were yet to formally present their demands to management.

"Obviously we will engage with our workforce, but the wages are negotiated centrally at the level of the Chamber of Mines and we don't intend to change that." But, he said, Anglo Gold would be willing to discuss other demands with the miners.

Unrest across the country's vital minerals sector has spread in recent weeks as workers' demand higher wages after employees at Lonmin's Marikana platinum mine were granted an 11-12 percent wage rise.

The industrial action at Lonmin, which lasted for six weeks, left 46 people dead. Thirty-five were shot by police forces.

Malema has expressed his support for the striking miners.

jlw/mz (Reuters, AP, dpa, AFP)