South African opposition figure Malema faces land grab charges

October 13, 2016 1:15 PM EDT

Julius Malema, leader of South Africa's Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF), gestures during a media briefing in Alexander township near Sandton, South Africa August 17, 2016. REUTERS/Siphiwe Sibeko


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JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) - South African politician Julius Malema, who wants mines and land nationalized and whites' economic power curbed, was on Thursday served with a summons to appear in court on charges that he incited his supporters to invade land.

Malema, leader of the ultra-left Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) party, has accused the ruling African National Congress of failing to redress the inequality between blacks and whites since the end of apartheid in 1994.

He was ordered to appear in court on Nov. 7 and Nov. 14 to face two separate charges under the apartheid-era Riotous Assemblies Act of urging his supporters to trespass, although no actual incident was cited.

"We want our land now and nothing will deter us from this noble cause, not even prison can silence us. We remain unshaken, we will take our land," Malema said on Twitter after being summonsed.

His deputy, Floyd Shivambu told reporters the charges were meant to intimidate Malema, but added that the EFF leader would cooperate with the legal process.

Legal experts said the charge carries a maximum jail term not exceeding two years or a fine.

Malema was handed the summons moments after holding a press conference in which he called for public demonstrations on Nov. 2 in the capital Pretoria, to push for the resignation of President Jacob Zuma, his former patron and now arch-foe.

"Every street in Pretoria must be occupied," Malema said. "We cannot guarantee the safety of businesses on that day and therefore we advise them to shut down."

Malema has targeted Zuma's removal over his refusal to pay back some of the $16 million of state money spent on his personal home, as ordered by a constitutionally mandated anti-corruption watchdog in 2014.

Zuma has since paid back some of the money following a court order that upheld the graft watchdog's recommendation.

(Reporting by James Macharia; Editing by Catherine Evans)



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