Reuters Africa

JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) – ANC rebel Julius Malema, South African President Jacob Zuma’s most prominent critic and an advocate of mining nationalisation, appears in court on Wednesday on corruption charges that his supporters say are politically motivated.

Expelled African National Congress Youth League (ANCYL) President Julius Malema addresses a media conference in Johannesburg September 18, 2012. REUTERS/Jordi Matas

Police said they would close roads around the courthouse in Polokwane, the provincial capital of Malema’s native Limpopo, 350 km (220 miles) north of Johannesburg, for one of the biggest trials since the end of apartheid in 1994.

“No lawlessness will be tolerated and those who break the law will be arrested immediately,” a police statement said, ahead of a planned demonstration by thousands Malema’s supporters.

An arrest warrant was issued last week for the former ANC Youth League leader, with local media saying he was facing charges of fraud, corruption and money laundering in the awarding of government contracts in Limpopo.

Malema was expelled by the ruling African National Congress in April for causing rifts in the party, but has kept up his anti-Zuma tirades, saying the polygamist president should be removed since he pays more attention to his personal life than to running Africa’s biggest economy.

His supporters see him as an eventual leader of the ANC but at 31 he is too young to replace Zuma at the head of the party that has governed South Africa for nearly two decades.

The Youth League’s new leaders, who still back Malema, dismissed the charges as a politically motivated gambit to silence Zuma’s most vocal critic ahead of an ANC leadership election in December.

“State institutions must never be used to settle political scores because that will plunge the country into a banana republic and confirms our view that we are becoming a police state,” they said in a statement.   Read more…