Untouchable Malema

2019-04-03 06:00

ALMOST nine months after EFF leader Julius Malema illegally fired an assault rifle from the stage of an EFF rally in the Eastern Cape, he is yet to be arrested or charged.

And nine years after City Press revealed how an engineering firm partly owned by Malema’s family trust was looting Limpopo’s public finances, Malema is yet to face trial for corruption, money-laundering and fraud.

After the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) told News24’s Mandy Wiener last week that it was still waiting for the police to finalise its investigations into both cases, one can legitimately ask whether the authorities are afraid to prosecute Malema.

Critics of Malema, present company included, have found themselves insulted, abused and threatened, even with death, in public and on social media if they dared question the self-styled “commander in chief” of South Africa’s third-largest political party.

Are the prosecutors and investigating officers in charge of the shooting and On-Point Engineering cases so scared of an EFF-sponsored backlash that they would rather “investigate” these cases indefinitely than exercise their constitutional duties?

We’ve been here before.

For a decade, the NPA and the Hawks told us they were still “investigating” the Bosasa corruption case, when it is now clear they were just buying time to avoid acting against what was effectively an ANC front company.

How is it possible that the SAPS is nine months later still performing a “sound analysis” of the shooting incident before a decision on whether to charge Malema can be taken?

A functioning, competent police service that executed its duties without fear or favour would have arrested Malema the day after the shooting incident. The Firearms Control Act is clear: it’s a criminal offence to discharge a firearm in any public space.

The NPA’s indecision on the On-Point matter is just as mind-boggling. It cannot be true that the NPA is still waiting for outstanding information from the cops. The state had already decided to charge Malema, his friend and owner of On-Point Lesiba Gwangwa and others in 2012, for allegedly running a racket in Limpopo by outsourcing state infrastructure functions to their company.

Malema’s Ratanang Family Trust is a shareholder in On-Point and he used money from these state projects to finance his bling lifestyle, then as ANC Youth League leader.

City Press revealed in 2010 that roads and bridges that were supposed to be fixed by On-Point were dilapidated and in a terrible state. At the same time, On-Point received a R50 million tender from the Limpopo roads department to outsource key functions to something called a “project management unit”.

This unit would then sign back-to-back agreements with tender holders that gave On-Point a cut in contracts they awarded on behalf of the state. This falls squarely into the definition of what we now call state capture.

This information has been in the public domain for at least seven years and the state had a finalised charge sheet when it went to court.

In 2015, the case against Malema, Gwangwa and their co-accused was struck from the roll because of delays by the prosecution. One accused was sick and the NPA declined to proceed with the case in his absence. Malema even applied to have his case tried separately from the rest, but this was refused by the NPA, which led to the judge removing the case from the court roll.

This was a temporary measure and the NPA always planned to re-enrol the matter when the time was right.

“This is not an acquittal, it is not a verdict, as the judge stipulated. The matter was just struck off the roll … possibilities are that the Directorate of Public Prosecutions (DPP) with jurisdiction can be approached to issue a certificate to reinstate the matter,” NPA spokesperson Luvuyo Mfaku told journalists at the time.

Four years later, the NPA says it is still waiting for information from the Hawks. According to reports, Advocate Shamila Batohi, the new NPA head, has been cracking the whip, demanding answers on delays in prominent corruption matters. Hopefully the On-Point case is one of them. She will know that justice must not only be done, but also be seen to be done. Unfortunately, the inaction in the Malema cases creates the impression that he is above the law.

• Adriaan Basson is editor-in-chief of News24.

How is it possible that the SAPS is, nine months later, still performing a “sound analysis” of the shooting incident before a decision on whether to charge Malema can be taken?

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