Malema co-accused granted bail in corruption case

Wed, Sep 26, 2012, 01:00

JULIUS MALEMA’S four co-accused were granted bail yesterday at a court hearing that marked the opening gambit to secure a conviction against the controversial South African politician on fraud and corruption charges.

Lesiba Gwangwa, Kagisho Dichabe, Makgetsi Manthata and Helen Moreroa told Polokwane magistrate’s court in their bail application statements that they “maintained their innocence and intended to plead not guilty” to the charges against them.

The four, who were released on 40,000 rand (€3,800) bail each, are accused of fraud, corruption and money laundering relating to a tender awarded by Limpopo province’s department of roads and transport to the company On-Point Engineers.

Mr Malema is due to appear in court today on a raft of charges that will also include those faced by his four business associates. It is alleged that On-Point paid hundreds of thousands of euro into his Ratanang Family Trust, one of the company’s two shareholders.

The former African National Congress Youth League leader, who was kicked out of the party earlier this year, claims the charges brought against him by an anti-corruption team that includes the police, the treasury and revenue services are politically motivated.

Mr Malema (31) says he is being pursued by the state because of his opposition to South African president Jacob Zuma, whom he wants removed as ANC leader at the party’s elective conference in December.

News of Mr Malema’s imminent arrest was made public last week when details of investigations into his affairs were leaked to the media.

According to a City Press report on Sunday, public protector Thuli Madonsela’s investigation into Mr Malema revealed that he made huge sums of money from a R52 million (€5 million) tender secured by On-Point.

Although no evidence was uncovered that Mr Malema interfered in the tender process, Ms Madonsela found he allegedly benefited “improperly” from the contract, and that On-Point had acted corruptly, the newspaper reported.

As a result Ms Madonsela recommended that the relevant authorities investigate the flow of money into Mr Malema’s trust.

It has also been confirmed that the revenue services obtained a R16 million (€1.5 million) judgment against Mr Malema at Gauteng high court for unpaid taxes on September 11th last.

Mr Malema’s former colleagues in the youth league have condemned what they describe as the use of state resources to settle political scores.

“The fact that even some government ministers intimated knowledge of the charges [against Mr Malema] points to political interference in the administration of justice and it must be condemned,” the league said yesterday.

The police have cordoned off streets surrounding Polokwane regional court in preparation for an all-night vigil the league intends to hold in support of its former leader.

The Sowetan newspaper reported yesterday that more than 15,000 people were expected to attend the vigil, which will continue until Mr Malema’s court appearance today is concluded.

The youth league used the same tactic when Mr Malema was at its helm to show its support for Mr Zuma during his corruption trial in 2008.

The firebrand politician was one of the ANC president’s loudest advocates at the time, but the relationship soured completely over Mr Malema’s outspokenness against government policy.