S.Africa's Malema arrest warrant issued amid mines unrest

Susan Njanji
Expelled ANC Youth League president Julius Malema addresses a press conference on September 18. South Africa's police issued an arrest warrant for firebrand Julius Malema whose calls for a wave of illegal mining strikes have inflamed a spread of crippling shut-downs on mines

South Africa's police on Friday issued an arrest warrant for firebrand Julius Malema whose calls for a wave of illegal mining strikes have inflamed a spread of crippling shut-downs on mines.

And officials banned a march that had been planned for Saturday in the troubled Marikana mining region.

The warrant for Malema has been linked to alleged corruption, but comes a week after a government clampdown on the spreading mine unrest, which Malema has used to launch political attacks on South African President Jacob Zuma.

"We were notified today that a warrant of arrest was issued against Julius Malema," his lawyer, Nicqui Galaktiou told AFP.

"We don't have information on the charges and we don't have a copy of the warrant," she added.

The elite police Hawks unit moved against Malema after months of speculation that he was being probed over allegations that he took bribes for oiling tenders for government contracts.

Sunday newspaper the City Press said on its website that Malema faced charges of money laundering, corruption and fraud. The warrant related to a family trust and its shares in a company that has earned millions from government tenders, it said.

The 31-year-old one-time rising star of South African politics was expelled from Zuma's ruling African National Congress (ANC) earlier this year for ill-discipline.

In recent weeks, he has been criss-crossing troubled mines calling for them to be made "ungovernable".

But police this week bundled him out of Marikana, where a Lonmin platinum strike became the epicentre of spreading strife, after the government ordered a crackdown on the growing unrest.

Galaktiou said Malema would be turning himself in and they were negotiating with the authorities for a court appearance next week.

Zuma has sent soldiers into the troubled Rustenburg platinum belt to support police after his government said it would no longer tolerate illegal gatherings, weapons, incitement, and threats of violence flaring at mines.

Authorities also banned a march planned for Saturday in Marikana in which women had wanted to hand a memorandum to police calling for them and the army to withdraw from the mining area.

Despite the clampdown, top miner AngloGold Ashanti said Friday it had been hit by a wildcat strike, just the latest disruption to South Africa's key mining sector since the end of the deadly dispute at Lonmin's platinum mine.

The Kopanang mine, which lies around 180 kilometres (110 miles) southwest of Johnnesburg, employs around 5,000 workers, and produced four percent of AngloGold's total output for the first half of the year.

The main National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) said miners wanted a basic monthly salary of 12,500 rand (1,200 euros, $1,500). This demand has become a rallying cry across the mines.

AngloGold is the world's number three gold miner whose South African operations made up 32 percent of global production in the first half of the year.

The entrance to the affected shaft was on Friday blocked with red-and-white tape, two mine security vehicles and about half a dozen armed security guards on the scene, with a police van nearby.

This latest action came as platinum giant Anglo American Platinum (Amplats) and Gold Fields battled to get thousands of their own striking workers to return to work.

Workers around the country's mining industry have taken a cue from the wage deal at platinum producer Lonmin.

Miners there returned to work Thursday after winning pay hikes of up to 22 percent after a bitter dispute in which 46 people died in a six week stand-off.

Amplats on Friday extended an ultimatum for striking workers to return to shift in Rustenburg, after a Thursday deadline went unheeded with 80 percent of staff staying away.

It has now given workers until Monday night to get back to work.

Some 15,000 workers at Gold Fields, southwest of Johannesburg, have also been on a stayaway for the past 12 days demanding wage increases.

The wave of strikes has triggered fears of major economic fallout, with mining the country's economic backbone and directly contributing nine percent to GDP.