Julius Malema, ex-leader of South Africa's ruling ANC Youth League, was charged with money laundering on Wednesday and released on bail. He claims he is the victim of a conspiracy by his political opponents.
Hundreds of people thronged the grounds of the regional court in Polokwane, in Limpopo province to lend their support to Julius Malema. They included South Africa's ANC Youth League leaders and local ANC officials.
Supporters shouted praise in support of Malema and lifted placards which read "Hands off our leader" and "We support you JuJU". The term "JuJU" is used as a mark of respect by Malema's supporters.
After emerging from the court house, where he was released on bail of 10,000 rand (about U.S. $1,215 or 950 euros), Malema addressed his supporters, saying he was not worried, and even downplayed the criminal charges. "When I came here I was told that I was going to be charged with corruption, fraud and money laundering,” Malema said.
“On my arrival here I was told I am being charged (only) for money laundering which is not very serious," he added.
Zuma's witch hunt
The crowd also heaped abuse on President Jacob Zuma. Malema accused his one time ally of being behind the charges against him. "Zuma does not become the president of the ANC,” Malema said in reference to the upcoming ANC national elective conference scheduled for the middle of December in Bloemfoentein.
“The following day we remove him as the president and the day after we charge him with corruption, because Zuma must still be charged," he added.
Julius Malema's money laundering charge relate to a sum of more than four million rand that his family trust, known as Ratanang Family Trust, had received from On-Point Engineering. Malema is a shareholder in the company.
The company was granted a 52 million rand contract by the Limpopo provincial government's road department, despite the fact that it was not equipped to carry out such a contract.
It is alleged that the contract was granted through political influence and not on merit.
It was Malema's attempts to shift the focus away from himself that forced the South African Anti-Corruption Task Force to bring charges of money laundering against him. Mackintosh Polela, a spokesperson for the anti-corruption unit, believes Malema is not fully aware of the gravity of the charges he is facing.
"Mr Malema is facing a charge of money laundering, which is indeed a serious charge. If you are found guilty, you face 15 years in jail or a very,very serious fine," Polela said in an interview with DW.
The ANC's centenary celebrations prompted South Africans to ponder the party's future as well as its past
Meanwhile, South Africa's mining strikes show no sign of abating. More than 50,000 miners are still on strike at the Angloplat mine and other platinum and chrome mines in Rustenburg, North West Province, west of Johannesburg. The mines affected are Goldfields and Ashanti gold mines.
Meanwhile Angloplat miners from a gold mine in Free State province said they will
not return to work until their demands for wage increases of 16 000 rand a month are met.
Julius Malema had been vocal during the Lonmin Marikana mine unrest, in which 45 people were killed.