South Africa's Julius Malema challenges apartheid-era law

image copyrightReuters
image captionJulius Malema's Economic Freedom fighters often wear red berets and red boiler suits

South African opposition figure Julius Malema is challenging an apartheid-era law used to prosecute him over calls to occupy white-owned land.

He is accused of urging his supporters to occupy white-owned land in a speech he gave in June, in contravention to the 1956 Riotous Assemblies Act.

A judge has agreed to postpone his trial while he challenges the act in the Constitutional Court.

Land reform is still a highly sensitive issue in South Africa.

Twenty-two years after the end of white-minority rule, most of the country's best farmland is owned by a few thousand white farmers.

Outside the court Mr Malema told supporters: "What we are calling for is peaceful occupation of the land and we don't owe anyone an apology for that," reports Reuters news agency.

"The land must be expropriated without compensation."

European colonisers "found peaceful Africans here. They killed them. They slaughtered them like animals," he said.

"We are not calling for the slaughter of white people, at least for now."

Mr Malema, who is the leader of the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF), told supporters in Newcastle in June that white people can't claim to own land because it belongs to the country's black majority.

Applause misleading - Milton Nkosi, BBC News, Johannesburg

Mr Malema is trying to exploit the vacuum left by the governing African National Congress (ANC), which has been paralysed by infighting and renewed pressure on President Jacob Zuma to resign over alleged corruption.

But the applause that Mr Mamela's receives at rallies can be misleading - in this year's municipal elections, his Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) won only 8% of the vote, compared with the 54% and 24% of the ANC and Democratic Alliance respectively.

So not too much emphasis should be placed on Mr Malema's land grab call.

The judge told a packed court in Newcastle, KwaZulu-Natal, that Mr Malema's lawyers must return to court on 7 December and provide proof that he has filed his case to overturn the law with the Constitutional Court.

Back in 2014, Mr Malema told his supporters they should go and occupy vacant land in a speech at a party conference in Bloemfontein, south-west of Johannesburg.

On Monday Mr Malema is due in court in Bloemfontein for that case.

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