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Malema escapes trial, but may still have his day in court

EWN asks where to from here, now that Malema’s fraud and corruption trial has been struck off the roll.

Julius Malema in the High court sitting in Polokwane on 4 August 2015. Picture: Reinart Toerien/EWN.

JOHANNESBURG - What exactly does it mean for EFF leader Julius Malema now that the fraud and corruption trial against him and two others has been struck from the roll?

The case relates to a 2009 tender awarded by the Limpopo department of roads and transport to On Point Engineering, a company co-owned by Malema.

The trial could not proceed as planned because one of the co-accused, Kagiso Dichaba, was hospitalised last week.

On Monday Malema requested that he be tried separately in order for the matter to be expedited.

However, on Tuesday Judge Billy Mothle said he did not want to postpone proceedings again, and said the case could not continue without Dichaba.

He therefore ruled that the trial had been struck from the roll.

Does this mean the State didn't prepare properly?

Legal expert Cliff Alexander says the State is not to blame.

"The public must understand it's not the fault of the State that the matter couldn't proceed. It's the fault of the co-accused who wasn't there. Separation of trials normally happens when one of the co-accused pleads guilty. When the co-accused blame one other it will often be in the interest of justice to try them together."

So is Malema off the hook?

Lawyer Zola Majavu says Malema has not been vindicated.

"The judge's decision simply said, 'Mr Malema, for now you are free to go, but remember you have not been vindicated because the court has not pronounced on your guilt or innocence'."

Where to from here?

Majavu says the State will most likely reinstate the charges as soon as possible.

"The National Prosecuting Authority would be hugely embarrassed if they do not reinstate the charges against Mr Malema because they have always contended that they were ready to proceed."

Alexander adds it's highly unlikely that today's ruling marks the end of the road for Malema.

"Malema says he wants his day in court to prove his innocence. The State is there to prove his guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. He will most definitely have his day in court."