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Africa

Malema land rights court case postponed to October

media The Economic Freedom Fighters Party leader Julius Malema has repeatedly called on his supporters to invade unoccupied land in South Africa. Reuters/Sumaya Hisham

The land grab case in South Africa against Julius Malema, head of the radical Economic Freedom Fighters Party, has been postponed. Malema is charged with violating the constitution over a call to supporters to take over unoccupied land in the city of Newcastle, in Kwazulu-Natal province.

The latest case against Julius Malema has been postponed October, after the defendant filed a legal challenge of the constitutionality of the 1956 Riotous Assemblies Act, which the prosecution argues he violated.

Malema was originally scheduled to appear in court on 5 May.

The Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) leader has repeatedly called on his constituents to invade unoccupied land.

“Please go on to occupy the land,” Malema told his supporters on Friday. “This land struggle has led to many blacks having a place they call home.”

Charged twice in 2016

In 2016 Malema was charged twice for calling on his supporters to invade land in the cities of Newcastle and Bloemfontein.

Land and property rights have long been a contentious issue in post-apartheid South Africa.

White farmers owned around 70 percent of the country's land when apartheid ended in 1994.

Since then, around eight percent of that land has been redistributed to black owners. But for many, particularly Malema and his supporters, the redistribution process has not been moved quickly enough.

Fall-out with Zuma

Malema was once a strong supporter of President Jacob Zuma and the ruling African National Congress (ANC) but the relationship disintegrated in 2012. Malema then went on to establish the EFF, currently the third largest party in parliament, the next year.

But some analysts warn the EFF’s success is only relative.

“They have a lot of pizzazz and style and presentation [...] but when it translates into votes, they’re not growing,” Nic Borain, a political analyst based in Cape Town, told RFI.

The EFF currently controls just over six percent of the vote in parliament.

The ruling ANC party, meanwhile has 62 percent of the vote, while the Democratic Alliance, the lead opposition party, controls 22 percent.

The outcome of this latest trial could change that.

“If Malema's actions and words subscribe to the constitution, then I support him, but if they are unconstitutional, then he needs to account for those words,” Philile Ntuli, a land rights researcher at the University of Cape Town told RFI.

The case is now scheduled to be heard on 13 October.

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