JOHANNESBURG (AP) — Firebrand South African politician Julius Malema will appear in a regional court on Wednesday on charges of money laundering in connection with an improper government tender awarded to a company his family trust partly owns.
Malema handed himself in to a police station in Polokwane, in South Africa's northeast, across from the court early Wednesday. Large crowds of supporters surrounded the police station, chanting his name. Vigils were held through the night for him, where supporters sang songs against South Africa's president.
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 for road services in the Limpopo province. They were granted a bail of 40,000 rand ($5,000) each.
A draft of the charge sheet says that Malema had ties with business associate Lesiba Gwangwa, and that Malema 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 Mercedes.