A South African court has postponed the corruption case against former African National Congress (ANC) youth leader Julius Malema, as the court 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.
Friday’s 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.
Andre Bezuidenhout, Malema’s lawyer, told Polokwane Magistrate’s Court: “We plan to argue that there was political influence in charging Mr Malema.
“It does not matter whether there is racketeering or not, I am not scared”
– Julius Malema
“We are aware of a meeting that took place in Cape Town before he was charged.”
Malema appeared confident throughout the proceedings, dressed in a black suit and a red tie he shook hands with his family and police inside the court room.
The 31 year old, who was kicked out of the ANC earlier this year for sowing indiscipline in the ruling party, appeared before the 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 infrastructure contracts valued at $6.3m.
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.
Malema 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 $1,215, which he was given in September.