JOHANNESBURG – A court in South Africa has issued an arrest warrant for Julius Malema, the leader of the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) party for failure to appear in court in a case where he is accused of misusing a gun.
Malema and co-accused Adriaan Snyman are accused of discharging a firearm at a rally in Sisa Dukashe Stadium in Mdantsane near East London in South Africa’s Eastern Cape province in 2018.
The East London Magistrate’s Court issued the arrest warrant after Malema failed to appear, an explanation being offered by his attorney but rejected by the judicial officer.
There is a social media-posted video purporting to show Malema taking a semi-automatic rifle from another man and firing it into the air at the 5th anniversary celebrations of the founding of the EFF during the event.
The State had been meant, among other things, to hand over video evidence during the hearing to the defence at which the accused’s attendance was mandatory.
However, the arrest warrant has been stayed until Malema’s next court appearance on May 8.
Malema responded to the development on social media, posting a cryptic image with no apparent direct reference to the case but which seemed to imply he was not concerned.
Malema’s lawyer, Ian Levitt, said that the warrant had been stayed until his client’s next court appearance so it would not be executed.
However, Levitt said the entire episode was a “mockery” since his client had reached an agreement when the matter was last before the courts in November last year that he would not have to appear again at pre-trial hearings until the trial date itself had been set.
“The reasons for the agreement, which was reached between the bench, the prosecution and the defence, was that it takes enormous resources when a high-profile person appears in court and it costs our client a lot of money to fly up and down for brief pre-trial appearances,” explained Levitt.
Footage of the incident which has brought Malema up on several firearms charges surfaced on social media – the video of which appears to be the state’s main evidence – seemingly showing Malema discharging the weapon while celebrating with supporters.
Speaking about the issue when it was first decided by prosecutors to proceed with the charges, Malema said: “No worries, that’s my life – me and the establishment always fight”.
Previously the EFF has defended Malema saying it was a “simulation act” and that he had not used a real firearm.