Malema seeks to over­turn apartheid law

Lesotho Times - - Africa/news -

A FAR-LEFT South African politi­cian who wants to na­tion­al­ize banks, mines and land says he would ask the Con­sti­tu­tional Court to scrap an apartheid-era law used to pros­e­cute him over calls to oc­cupy white-owned land.

Julius Malema, leader of the far­left Eco­nomic Free­dom Fight­ers (EFF) party, won the per­mis­sion of a judge to have his trial postponed while he chal­lenges the 1956 Riotous As­sem­blies Act - a chal­lenge le­gal ex­perts said could well suc­ceed.

Land re­form is a highly sen­si­tive is­sue in South Africa and has been brought into fo­cus by the de­cline in agri­cul­ture in neigh­bor­ing Zim­babwe, where white com­mer­cial farm­ers were of­ten evicted vi­o­lently by Pres­i­dent Robert Mu­gabe’s gov­ern­ment.

Malema, known for his fiery rad­i­cal rhetoric, has ac­cused the rul­ing African Na­tional Con­gress (ANC) of fail­ing to re­dress the inequal­ity be­tween blacks and whites since the end of apartheid in 1994.

The for­mer ANC Youth League leader has seen his po­lit­i­cal sup­port rise in re­cent months by tar­get­ing his for­mer pa­tron, Pres­i­dent Ja­cob Zuma, over var­i­ous scan­dals. Last week he led protests in the cap­i­tal urg­ing Zuma to re­sign.

Malema, whose party holds 25 seats in South Africa’s 400-mem­ber par­lia­ment, ap­peared in court on Mon­day in the town of New­cas­tle, in the Kwazulu-natal prov­ince, where he is ac­cused of urg­ing his sup­port­ers in a speech in June to oc­cupy white-owned land, in con­tra­ven­tion of the 1956 Riotous As­sem­blies Act.

The judge granted Malema’s re­quest for a de­lay in his case.

“What we are call­ing for is peace­ful oc­cu­pa­tion of the land and we don’t owe any­one an apol­ogy for that,” Malema told cheer­ing sup­port­ers wear­ing their trade­mark red shirts out­side the court­room af­ter the hear­ing.

“If it means go­ing to prison for telling peo­ple to take the land, so be it. I am not scared of prison,” said Malema, who wore a dark blue suit and red tie in­stead of his usual red beret and red over­all.

“The land must be ex­pro­pri­ated with­out com­pen­sa­tion,” he said. “We are not call­ing for the slaugh­ter of white peo­ple‚ at least for now,” he added.

The main op­po­si­tion Demo­cratic Al­liance party, which has many white sup­port­ers, con­demned Malema’s com­ments as “threat­en­ing” and “un­con­sti­tu­tional”, but EFF spokesman Mbuyiseni Nd­lozi said they were jus­ti­fied be­cause he said the land in white hands had been ac­quired by killing black peo­ple.

“We are not say­ing our peo­ple should seek re­venge, we hope to help bring land to blacks us­ing peace­ful means,” Nd­lozi said.

“Un­con­sti­tu­tional” Nd­lozi said Malema would chal­lenge the 1956 law on the grounds that “it is un­con­sti­tu­tional and should be struck off”.

Jo­han­nes­burg-based lawyer Ul­rich Roux, who has no con­nec­tion to the politi­cian’s case, said the Con­sti­tu­tional Court might rule in fa­vor of Malema as the law had orig­i­nally been in­tro­duced by the apartheid regime to sup­press dis­sent.

“It is a pretty unique ap­pli­ca­tion. The chances are pretty good that it could be de­clared un­con­sti­tu­tional,” he said.

The judge in New­cas­tle said Malema’s lawyers must pro­vide proof to the court on Dec. 7 that he has filed his case to over­turn the tres­pass law with the Con­sti­tu­tional Court and that the politi­cian must re­turn to the court on May 5 next year.

Next Mon­day Malema will face a sec­ond charge of tres­pass in Bloem­fontein, 400 km (250 miles) south­west of Jo­han­nes­burg.

Malema’s three-year-old party has won some sup­port from vot­ers frus­trated about inequal­ity in a coun­try where black peo­ple make up about 80 per­cent of the 54 mil­lion pop­u­la­tion, yet most of the economy in terms of own­er­ship of land and com­pa­nies re­mains in the hands of white peo­ple, who rep­re­sent about eight per­cent of the pop­u­la­tion.

Mean­while, a no-con­fi­dence mo­tion against South Africa’s Pres­i­dent Ja­cob Zuma due for a vote in par­lia­ment to­day “has no chance of suc­ceed­ing”, the African Na­tional Con­gress’ (ANC) Sec­re­tary Gen­eral Gwede Man­tashe has said.

The vote was called by the main op­po­si­tion Demo­cratic Al­liance party last week fol­low­ing the re­lease of a re­port by the anti-cor­rup­tion watch­dog call­ing for a judicial in­quiry into al­le­ga­tions of in­flu­ence-ped­dling in Zuma’s gov­ern­ment.

JULIUS Malema ad­dresses sup­port­ers af­ter ap­pear­ing in the New­cas­tle Mag­is­trate’s Court on Mon­day.

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