Julius Malema to be charged over land again

EFF leader is now being charged under common law

Johannesburg – EFF leader Julius Malema will on Friday appear before the Newcastle Magistrate's Court for calling on supporters to invade unoccupied land.

Malema, who has already been charged twice (in Newcastle and in Bloemfontein), under the Riotous Assemblies Act, is to now be charged under common law, making this his first appearance for the matter.

He is currently challenging the constitutionality of the Riotous Assemblies Act under which he was charged in 2016.

National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) spokesperson Luvuyo Mfaku told News24 that Malema will be charged by the magistrate.

"He was meant to appear before, on the 10th, but gave a medical certificate," said Mfaku.

Malema and other EFF members of Parliament were forcibly removed from the National Assembly during the State of the Nation Address, which took place on February 9.

Some of the MPs and parliamentary security officials suffered injuries in the scuffle.

An unfazed Malema had reiterated his calls for the illegal occupation of land following his two court appearances last year.

"The land question is becoming unavoidable, it's becoming inevitable," he told supporters gathered outside the Newcastle Magistrate's Court following his first appearance in November.

Mfaku said the magistrate is expected to set a trial date for Malema depending on whether or not the investigation into the allegations against the EFF commander-in-chief was completed.

Meanwhile, the EFF has remained firm in its belief that the charges are an attempt to steer the party away from its political focus.

"It must be seen as trying to defocus us from the political work that the EFF is busy with, the political programme of the commander-in-chief," said the red berets' spokesperson Mbuyiseni Ndlozi.

He said although the charges Malema was appearing for were under common law, he would still be subjected to the same processes as he was previously.

"It's the same substantial issue," said Ndlozi.

Ndlozi said the charges to be brought against Malema cast doubt on the country's commitment to a genuine conversation about land and are only meant to frustrate the EFF.

The EFF spokesperson said he believed the NPA was going to challenge the party's right to campaign around the issue of land.

"We are a registered political party. Everybody knows our constitution; it was accepted by the independent electoral commission. We are members of Parliament – the EFF is an official political party so its positions are official," said Ndlozi.

He said the party would not shift from its position on land despite the charges brought against its leadership.

"Whether it be common law or the Riotous Assemblies Act, it doesn't matter, we can't withdraw our official ideas that have been accepted because we are a political party," he said.

Ndlozi said the EFF had the right to campaign and a right to freedom of expression.

Malema's pending challenge of the constitutionality of the act is awaiting a date from the Constitutional Court.