Malema: Sedition charges next?

2012-09-29 19:52

Malema could be charged with targeting the state’s authority and power.

The Hawks are investigating charges of sedition and incitement of violence against former ANC Youth League leader Julius Malema.

The case is being handled by senior prosecutors attached to the National Prosecuting Authority’s (NPA’s) priority crimes litigation unit.

City Press understands that the head of the unit, Advocate Anton Ackermann, SC, has written a legal opinion in which he says there is prima facie evidence against Malema to face a case of sedition.

Malema was charged with money laundering in the Polokwane Regional Court this week. He will appear in court again on November 30.

The Hawks are currently investigating charges of sedition and incitement to violence against Malema, relating to his statements at a meeting of soldiers earlier this month and his utterings at mines.

The NPA is awaiting a docket from the Hawks before a decision will be made on whether to prosecute Malema.

Sedition has seldom been used in South African legal history.

The last sedition conviction was achieved in 1979, when 11 members of the Soweto Students’ Representative Council were convicted of terrorism and sedition, and sentenced to imprisonment.

Sedition is a crime that is not aimed at an individual but at the authority and power of the state.

It falls between treason on the one hand and public violence on the other.

Sedition is committed when a number of people gather with the intention of defying, challenging, subverting or assailing the authority of the state.

Constitutional law expert Pierre de Vos says it would be highly unusual for the state to charge Malema with sedition and would give away how desperate government is to silence him.

“The first thing Malema would do if he is charged with sedition is question its constitutionality,” said De Vos.

“It can become a long and drawn-out case and Malema might well be right that there is no place for sedition in our democracy.”

De Vos said the main criticism against the sedition charge is that it might be used by the authorities to stifle freedom of speech.

“If they go ahead and charge him, it might just show how paranoid they are about him. Charging him with sedition is like entering a minefield and it might be best to avoid it,” said De Vos.

The Hawks are apparently studying Malema’s speech delivered to disgruntled defence force soldiers at a military base
near Lenasia, southern Joburg, two weeks ago.

The defence department lambasted Malema’s appearance there, calling it incitement and saying it was a direct threat to the country’s security.

During the meeting, the soldiers’ representative, Solly Nkomo, warned that the group of suspended soldiers could turn to violent means to get their way. He said there was a “good way” and a “bad way” to do things.

Malema told soldiers that South Africa was a “banana republic” and that their commander-in-chief, President Jacob Zuma, was engaged “in other things”, and that the president was a dictator.

He said people had only their voices and minds to fight “this barbaric regime”.

Defence Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula labelled the meeting “counter-revolutionary” and said instability could not be sown in the South African National Defence Force (SANDF).

“The SANDF is the last line of defence of both the sovereignty and integrity of the country and we cannot allow anyone to play political football with this institution.

It is simply not going to be tolerated,” she added.

Mapisa-Nqakula put the defence force on high alert when she heard Malema was going to address soldiers.

Three soldiers who allegedly organised the meeting were arrested by the military, but were subsequently released.

After the meeting, military analyst Helmoed-Römer Heitman said: “If you are intending to plot sedition, the military is a good place to start.

If you want to destabilise the state, you demoralise the military.”

Trade union Solidarity laid charges of incitement against Malema after he told mine workers at the Aurora mine in Springs that “we will run these mines ungovernable until the Boers come to the table”.

Malema’s lawyer said they had no comment at this stage.

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