JOHANNESBURG, South Africa — Political provocateur Julius Malema was charged with money laundering Wednesday in a South African court.
"I'll continue with the struggle for economic freedom," he told the hundreds who gathered to support him.
Prosecutors say Malema received 4.2 million rand (about $510,000) in "proceeds from unlawful activities," related to government contracts awarded in his home province of Limpopo. Initial reports indicated he would also be charged with fraud and corruption, but these charges appear to have been dropped.
Malema, 31, has denied the allegations. His backers argue the case is politically motivated and aimed at silencing him.
Eyewitness News said he was released on 10,000 rand bail ($1,200), and is next due in court November 30.
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Malema was expelled from the ANC earlier this year after being found guilty of "sowing divisions" and “bringing the ANC into disrepute."
While Malema and the ANC youth league's support was instrumental in bringing South African President Jacob Zuma to power in 2007, the two have since become enemies. Tensions are particularly high ahead of a crucial ANC leadership congress in December, where Zuma will seek a second term.
In the last month Malema, nicknamed "Juju," has sought to gain political capital from public anger over the August 16 mass shooting of striking workers at the Lonmin-owned Marikana mine by police.
An outspoken proponent of nationalization of South Africa's mining industry, he embarked on a tour of gold and platinum mines, speaking to disgruntled workers and calling for a national strike over wages.
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Malema said outside the Polokwane Regional Court that he would visit a platinum mine on Thursday to continue pushing for a wage strike.
According to the South African Press Association, he told his supporters they must ensure President Jacob Zuma is not re-elected at the upcoming ANC leadership conference.
"We must make sure Jacob Zuma does not become president of the ANC....Remove him as a president," Malema said, according to SAPA.
"Zuma has 700 charges against him. I only have one," he added.
The ANC released a statement rejecting accusations that the charges against Malema are being used to fight political battles, through state agencies.
"We reject this accusation with contempt as it is misleading and seeking to undermine the rule of law and jurisprudence of the country," the statement said.
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