JOHANNESBURG (AP) — Firebrand South African politician Julius Malema appeared in a regional court Wednesday on a charge of money laundering in connection with a 52 million rand ($6.5 million) government contract awarded to a company his family trust partly owns. He was given 10,00 rand ($1,250) bail.
Malema appeared in a police station in Polokwane, in South Africa's northeast, before entering the regional court. When he entered the courtroom people there started cheering.
Large crowds of supporters also gathered around the police station and court, chanting his name. Vigils were held through the night for him, where supporters sang songs against South Africa's president. His next court date is Nov. 30.
Malema says charges are politically motivated at a time when he's become outspoken about the labor unrest in South Africa's mining industry and says they are meant to shut him up after he threatened to make the mines ungovernable. Malema was expelled from the ruling African National Congress party earlier this year for sowing disunity.
In a separate case, the South African Revenue Service is also charging Malema with unpaid taxes and interest of 16 million rand ($2 million.)
Malema's four business associates appeared in court Tuesday on charges including fraud, corruption and money laundering for the 52 million rand ($6.5 million) awarded to company On Point Engineering for road services in Limpopo province. They were granted a bail of 40,000 rand ($5,000) each.
A draft of the charge sheet says benefited from the tender and used it to fund a farm that cost nearly 4 million rand ($500,000) and to make a payment for a luxury car.
Last week police surrounded Malema and threatened his arrest when he arrived at a stadium to address striking mine workers who were meeting to vote on a wage deal. Malema was forced to leave before addressing the crowd of thousands. Nearly six weeks of strikes by workers at the platinum mine saw violence that killed 46 people.
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