JOHANNESBURG, Sept 21 (Reuters) – South African authorities have issued an arrest warrant for ANC renegade Julius Malema, President Jacob Zuma’s most vocal critic and a key backer of a wave of wildcat strikes in the mines that spread on Friday to bullion producer Anglogold Ashanti.
The former Youth League leader, who was expelled from the ruling African National Congress in April for indiscipline, was liaising with police about his appearance in court next week, his lawyer, Nicqui Galaktiou, told Reuters.
“We are busy arranging Mr. Malema’s appearance next week,” she said. “We don’t have a confirmed date yet. We have not seen the warrant of arrest. We don’t know what the charges are. He won’t be jailed.”
She added that the charges stemmed from an investigation by the police’s elite Hawks detective division, which has been probing 31-year-old Malema for alleged corruption relating to the award of government contracts in his native Limpopo province.
The Hawks’ Colonel Mahlangu had advised Malema and his lawyers of the existence of a warrant, she said.
South Africa’s City Press newspaper said Malema, who has been fanning the flames of discontent in the mines by addressing crowds of strikers and calling for nationwide industrial action, was facing charges of fraud, money laundering and corruption.
Malema has also unnerved investors by calling for the nationalisation of mines in the world’s top platinum producer.
The wave of wildcat strikes started with a mass walkout at Lonmin’s Marikana platinum mine in early August, and culminated a week later with the police killing of 34 striking miners in the deadliest security incident since the 1994 end of apartheid.
The unrest hit AngloGold on Friday when workers downed tools at its Kopanang mine in South Africa’s Free State province.
“The night shift embarked on an unprotected strike at Kopanang and the morning shift didn’t go down either,” company spokesman Alan Fine said.
Fine said the mine has 5,000 workers and the strikers had not yet communicated their demands to the company. It only accounts for about 4 percent of the group’s global output.
A spokesman for the National Union of Mineworkers said the strikers wanted a wage of 12,500 rand ($1,500) a month, mirroring demands at other mines.
This is about triple the amount earned as basic pay at the bottom end of the wage scale in the industry.
Lonmin said a wage settlement at Marikana this week would add 14 percent to its wage bill from Oct. 1, a huge strain on a company battling with an already shaky balance sheet and rising costs on other fronts.
Workers at the world’s top platinum producer Anglo American Platinum and bullion producer Gold Fields are also on illegal strikes over pay, sparking concerns about more copycat action.