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South African prosecutors issued an arrest warrant for politician Julius Malema, his lawyer said, as the country struggles to resolve worker unrest in which Mr. Malema played an activist role.
The lawyer, Nicqui Galaktiou, said she didn’t have details on the charges, and had been informed of them by the National Prosecuting Authority. The state prosecutor declined to comment.
Ms. Galaktiou said she was working with prosecutors and police to set a court date for next week so Mr. Malema can turn himself into authorities and arrange bail.
Mr. Malema is a former ally turned fierce critic of President Jacob Zuma. He was expelled in February from the ruling African National Congress, where he led the youth wing, for sowing divisions within the party.
Ms. Galaktiou called the arrest warrant politically motivated.
A spokesman for Mr. Zuma, Mac Maharaj, said the country’s prosecuting authorities act independently and that the presidency “does not get involved with any decision to or not to prosecute someone.”
In the past few weeks, Mr. Malema has provoked the ire of politicians, companies and union leaders by delivering speeches supportive of striking miners in which he called for nationwide strikes and for Mr. Zuma’s resignation.
Illegal strikes continue to erupt at the country’s biggest gold and platinum producers, causing heavy financial losses to the companies and straining government coffers that rely on their tax revenue.
The mining unrest comes as Mr. Zuma seeks to retain his top post in the ANC at a party conclave later this year, though he faces resistance within the ruling party, in which Mr. Malema, before his expulsion, played a divisive role.
By continuing as the ANC leader, Mr. Zuma would be almost assured of a second term as the country’s president, since the ANC maintains a dominant majority in the parliament that chooses the head of state.
“There are most certainly people around the president who may find it convenient for Malema not to be around the conference,” said Judith February, a Cape Town-based political analyst at think tank Institute for Democracy in Africa. “But with or without Malema, President Zuma has deep challenges.”
Mr. Malema suggested recently that the president was behind a push to put him in jail. “If we are to be arrested now, we will have been arrested by Jacob Zuma…[he is] threatened by our presence,” Mr. Malema told a news conference Tuesday.
A police investigative unit known as the Hawks said Sunday that it was investigating Mr. Malema for his alleged role in instigating violence around the mine strikes, which have left dozens dead. The Hawks wouldn’t comment on issues concerning arrest warrants, a spokesman for the unit said Friday.
South Africa’s Public Protector, an anticorruption watchdog, is in the process of completing a report of an investigation into corruption allegations against Mr. Malema, a spokeswoman from the office said.
When asked about reports of a police investigation into allegations of corrupt business dealings, Mr. Malema said he hadn’t participated in any corrupt practices. Police officials declined to comment.
Mr. Malema used his prominence as an outspoken leader to back Mr. Zuma’s ultimately successful bid to force President Thabo Mbeki to resign in 2008 as head of the ANC, leading to the 2009 country election that brought Mr. Zuma to office.
But as president of the ANC Youth League, Mr. Malema later roiled the ruling party with calls for mine nationalization and expropriation of white-owned land without compensation. He was expelled in February, and subsequent appeals weren’t successful.
Since then, Mr. Malema has sought to tap into widespread frustration among the country’s workers.
When South African police last month shot dead 34 protesters at a Lonmin PLC platinum mine, Mr. Malema called for nationwide strikes in solidarity with the Lonmin miners. He also pledged to make the country’s lucrative mining sector “ungovernable.” Another 12 people have died in clashes between protesters, bringing the death toll from the mine turmoil to 46.
After a six-week strike, Lonmin workers this week secured pay increases of up to 22%. Most of them returned to work on Thursday, but illegal strikes have continued to spread.
On Friday, a new illegal strike broke at South Africa’s biggest gold producer, Anglo Gold Ashanti Ltd., shutting 4% of its production capacity.
One of Gold Fields Ltd.’s mines remains closed while workers demand higher wages. And four mines remain shut at Anglo American Platinum Ltd.’s Rustenburg operation with less than 20% turnout.
Source:Wall Street Journal