EFF leader Julius Malema’s lawyer advocate Tembeka Ngcukaitobi says Malema is being deliberately targeted by the state in the land grab case.
Malema has been charged with violating the 1956 Riotous Assemblies Act after telling supporters to invade vacant land, but Ngcukaitobi has challenged the constitutionality of the act and argues that the state is using apartheid-era legislation to prosecute him.
“He did no more than call out the government for its failure to provide land to the landless‚” Ngcukaitobi argued in the North Gauteng High Court on Wednesday morning.
“There are no property rights at stake here. Despite the fact that there are no private property rights at stake‚ Mr Malema is being arraigned for speaking,” Ngcukaitobi continued.
The incitement charges that Malema faces relate to two incidents dating back to 2014 and 2016, in which the EFF leader allegedly incited party members to invade unoccupied land.
On December 16 2014, when he was elected leader at the EFF's elective conference in the Free State, he said he was “not the Holy Spirit” and could not occupy land everywhere. He then urged supporters to “be part of the occupation of land everywhere else in South Africa”.
In June 2016, in KwaZulu-Natal‚ Malema allegedly said “if you see a piece of land‚ don’t apologise‚ and [if] you like it‚ go and occupy that land. That land belongs to us”.
Ngcukaitobi argued that Malema did not speak to encourage violence and that freedom of speech should not be undermined.
“You should never imprison people for speaking‚” he said, adding that the right to freedom of speech was pivotal in a functional constitutional democracy‚ particularly when it came to the “expression of unpopular views”.
The hearing continues at the North Gauteng High Court.