EFF condemns 'opportunistic' media coverage of Malema's stayed arrest warrant

Floyd Shivambo (left) and Julius Malema, leaders of the Economic Freedom Fighters at the State of the Nation Address. (Photo by Gallo Images/Jeffrey Abrahams)
Floyd Shivambo (left) and Julius Malema, leaders of the Economic Freedom Fighters at the State of the Nation Address. (Photo by Gallo Images/Jeffrey Abrahams)

The EFF has slammed reporting on the stayed warrant of arrest that has been issued for its leader Julius Malema as being "opportunistic", claiming it was part of an agreement "in the interests of the court and taxpayers".

On Monday, Malema and his co-accused Adriaan Snyman did not appear in the East London Magistrate's Court on charges related to discharging a firearm in public.

Malema allegedly fired a semi-automatic weapon during the EFF's fifth birthday celebrations in Mdantsane in the Eastern Cape in 2018. The incident was caught on video.

He was facing five charges, including the unlawful possession of a firearm and ammunition, discharging a firearm in a built-up area or public space and reckless endangerment to person or property. Snyman faced at least two charges.

NPA Eastern Cape spokesperson Luxolo Tyali confirmed that warrants of arrest were issued for Malema and his co-accused as "a matter of procedure".

He said it had been stayed until their next court appearance on May, 8. This was a provisional date and the matter was not set down for trial on this date.

Later on Monday afternoon, the EFF released a statement on the matter, stating that "the CIC" – as the statement continually refers to Malema – was excused from appearing in court at the previous appearance through an agreement with the magistrate and prosecutor.

It said the reporting on the matter was "not only as harmful as they seek to present the CIC [Malema] as a fugitive, but also as opportunistic by a media that is desperate for a negative story on the CIC and the EFF".

"The issued warrant is therefore standard procedure and is not a cause for concern for the CIC or EFF," read the statement.

"It should not be a cause for concern for any of our supporters or sympathisers. It is a standard legal procedure that is not representative of guilt on the part of the accused or maliciousness from the judiciary."

'High-profile person'

The statement argued that it was in the court's interest that a "high-profile" person only appeared in court once a trial date had been set, as it avoided the unnecessary increase in security and police.

"In this regard a held-over warrant helps the state to save on its limited resources and to continue with its business.

"We urge those in the media to be mindful of their headlines, which cause unnecessary public outrage but more importantly we urge them to prioritise researched information above their interests to gain public attention.

"The CIC will appear before the court, as he has done on various occasions diligently, when required to do so. This will be done in the interests of the court and taxpayers," concluded the statement.

Tyali meanwhile said on Monday the State was due to provide the docket to the defence.

Malema himself didn't seem to be bothered by the issuing of the warrant, based on his activity on Twitter.

The EFF head tweeted a photo from a popular meme video in reply to a tweet by journalist Aldrin Sampear stating a warrant for his arrest had been issued by the court.

Later, he tweeted a video, with the caption, "Cooking goat in the village".

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