South Africa court dismisses Malema corruption trial

Judge throws out case against opposition leader and associates, saying another delay would be excessive.

    Malema was accused of receiving $400,000 from involvement in corrupt road construction projects [Getty]
    Malema was accused of receiving $400,000 from involvement in corrupt road construction projects [Getty]

    A South African court has thrown out the corruption case against Julius Malema, the leader of the opposition Economic Freedom Fighters (EEF) and a former leader of the ANC youth wing, and his four business associates.

    Al Jazeera's Fahmida Miller, reporting from Polokwane, where the trial was held on Tuesday, quoted the judge as saying he would rather dismiss the trial because another necessary postponement would be excessive after several previous delays.

    Malema left the court with hundreds cheering him on following the verdict. 

    The trial, which was supposed to begin on Monday after being adjourned in September last year, was again postponed until Tuesday because one of Malema's four associates was too ill to appear at the court.

    Field notes from our correspondent
    For the EFF party, it's business as usual as leader Julius Malema returns to parliament this week. Now that his corruption case has been thrown out of court on a technicality, Malema can refocus his attention on the party, which is steadily growing.

    Malema would not have wanted to deal with any possible leadership squabbles that may have arisen during his six-week trial and possible conviction. In a country where corruption linked to prominent leaders continues to be an issue, the Malema case is an indictment of state prosecutors. - Fahmida Miller, Polokwane

    "At least for now, Malema is off the hook, and while this is due to a technicality, the fact that it arose from how the national prosecuting chose to approach developments in the trial, with one of the accused not in court, would add weight to Malema's claims of the charges being politically motivated," our correspondent said.

    An outspoken critic of corruption, Malema is accused of receiving $400,000 from involvement in corrupt road construction projects.

    The charges include fraud, corruption, racketeering and money-laundering. If convicted, Malema could have spent a maximum of 15 years in prison, paid a large fine and would lose his seat in parliament.

    Our correspondent said that although the accused are "free to go now", they "may be charged again in the future".

    Malema and his supporters have repeatedly dismissed the allegations as politically motivated, saying his prosecution is a punishment for accusing President Jacob Zuma of corruption.

    In August last year, Malema led "pay back the money" chants against Zuma, triggering scuffles in parliament.

    He has demanded that Zuma repay the $24m of taxpayers' money spend on "security upgrades" at his extravagant private home.

    Malema himself, along with four business associates, is accused of lying to win a public works construction contract in his home province of Limpopo, worth $4.6m.

    The proceeds are alleged to have been used to help buy Malema a luxury Mercedes Benz Viano and a large farm.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and agencies


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