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Malema: Ousted Youth Leader Appears In Court
The man the South African establishment appears to hate has appeared in court charged with money laundering.
Julius Malema, who was once leader of the ruling ANC party's Youth League, is expected to deny the charge and he and his legal team insist the accusation is politically-motivated.
He maintains the legal proceedings are an attempt to silence him and curb his ability to criticise the government, and in particular, President Jacob Zuma.
The 31-year-old appeared at the Regional Court at Polokwane, the capital of his home province of Limpopo, on Wednesday morning.
Prosecutor Billy Moalusi told the court: "The accused is appearing before the honourable court on charges of money laundering, of receiving the proceeds of unlawful activities".
His appearance had been well trailed. News of his arrest was leaked to the media days ago and a long time before it was actually confirmed to his lawyer.
On the eve of his court appearance his legal team suggested they still had not seen the arrest warrant or knew what charges he would be facing.
He had been expected to also face corruption and fraud charges.
Malema is separately being investigated by a crack team of police investigators known in South Africa as the Hawks, as well as the South African Revenue Service (SARS) for unpaid taxes worth an estimated 16m rand.
Four days before his arrest warrant was issued, his lawyer Nicqui Galaktiou warned in a letter to the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) and the Hawks not to be influenced politically.
"It has come to Mr Malema's knowledge that there is a political plan to have him arrested and incarcerated within days," she wrote.
"Mr Malema is deeply concerned as to this information and if true, provides stark evidence that there is a political agenda to have Mr Malema arrested and brought before a court on charges which are unsustainable."
Ms Galaktiou went on to write that the charges appeared to have an "ulterior motive to silence him as a political opponent to other politicians and to interfere with or limit his constitutional rights, including his right of freedom of speech".
Malema told reporters last week that he believed there was a plot to kill him which had been ordered by senior members of the government. The government reaction has been not to comment on what they consider to be outlandish accusations.
Two days after the Marikana miners shooting on August 16, he travelled to Rustenburg and delivered a stirring speech exalting the miners to strike regularly, calling for nationalisation of the mining industry and urging them not to give up the fight for economic freedom.
The strike appeared to spread to other platinum mines and even a gold mine on his urging.
He was accused of inciting violence and the government was criticised for not taking tough enough action to clamp down on the unrest.
It then called in troops to guard the mines and ordered a crackdown to stop the strikers gathering in their hundreds and demonstrating through the streets. Malema was subsequently prevented from addressing the Lonmin strikers at a later gathering.
Malema is no stranger to controversy in South Africa and is one of the most divisive figures - loved by millions and feared and despised by others.
He was expelled from the ANC earlier this year for bringing the party into disrepute after delivering a series of scathing speeches criticising the president. He lost his position as leader of the militant Youth League. But he has consistently refused to accept this and has now set up a rival group calling itself Friends of the Youth League which has a large following.
Hundreds of his supporters gathered in the Polokwane Civic Centre before his court appearance to demonstrate their support for the man they still call president.