Julius Malema: South Africa issues 'arrest warrant'

Julius Malema (file photo) Julius Malema strongly denies profiting from government contracts

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A warrant has been issued for the arrest of South African politician Julius Malema, his lawyer says.

South Africa's elite Hawks unit has been investigating corruption claims against Mr Malema for months,but the details of the charges are not known.

The authorities have refused to comment on reports about the arrest warrant, but lawyer Nicqui Galaktiou says they have confirmed its existence to her.

Mr Malema, 31, once a close ally of President Zuma, is now a fierce critic.

He strongly denies allegations he profited from government contracts in his home province of Limpopo.

Analysis

For South Africa's unemployed youth - Julius Malema's staunchest supporters - this will seem like a witchhunt by the governing ANC. They will perceive it as pay-back for those opposed to his radical economic policies.

On the other hand, the middle class may be breathing a sigh of relief. They see the youth leader, who has recently been calling for a national strike in the mining sector, as a disrespectful loud mouth with the potential to turn the country into a banana republic.

There are also those who may think that this warrant is partly influenced by the political climate of infighting ahead of the ANC's December conference - with Mr Malema leading calls for President Jacob Zuma to be voted out.

According to the weekly City Press newspaper, he will be charged with fraud, corruption and money-laundering.

Ms Galaktiou told Reuters news agency Mr Malema would appear in court next week and would not be jailed or arrested before then.

"We don't have a confirmed date yet. We have not seen the warrant of arrest. We don't know what the charges are," she said.

Mr Malema on Friday afternoon told the BBC that he was not aware of the reported charges and was trying to find out if the warrant had been issued.

The BBC's Milton Nkosi in Johannesburg says Mr Malema has become well known in South Africa for his opulent lifestyle, wearing expensive watches and living in an upmarket district of Johannesburg.

When asked where the money comes from, he says his friends gave it to him.

Earlier this week, our correspondent asked Mr Malema whether he has ever been involved in any corruption.

"I've never been involved in any corrupt activity but I wouldn't argue with the Hawks, if they say they've got a case for me to answer. I will wait for them the day they come to speak to me," he responded with confidence during a packed media conference.

'Death can't stop me'

Who is Julius Malema?

  • Born 3 March 1981 in Limpopo province
  • Mother was domestic worker and single parent
  • Joined African National Congress (ANC) aged nine
  • Elected leader of its youth wing in April 2008
  • Convicted of hate speech in March 2010 and September 2011
  • Expelled from ANC in April 2012 for sowing divisions in party
  • Toured mines following the shooting of 34 miners in Marikana by police in August 2012, urging workers to make the sector "ungovernable"

Mr Malema, known for his fiery rhetoric, was expelled as head of the Youth League of the governing African National Congress (ANC) in April but has recently held several rallies in the Rustenburg area, scene of a violent mining dispute.

He has been calling for a national strike and has accused Jacob Zuma of ignoring the plight of poor black South Africans.

On Monday, Mr Malema was banned by police from addressing striking workers from the Marikana mine. The miners agreed to a pay offer the next day and have returned to work.

"Not even the president can stop me. Not even death can stop me. My ideas are out there. Even if I am no more, people will continue those ideas," Reuters quotes him as saying at a news conference on Tuesday.

Mr Malema's supporters will see the reported charges as a political witch-hunt, our correspondent says.

But he points out that the investigation began long before the recent strikes.

The ANC is due to meet in December to decide whether Mr Zuma will remain as party leader going into elections due in 2014.

Mr Malema and others are campaigning for him to be replaced.

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