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South African leftist leader wins tax battle

Published on 01/06/2015

The South African tax department on Monday withdrew its legal case against high-profile politician Julius Malema, allowing the vocal government critic to keep his seat in parliament.

The South African Revenue Service (SARS) had accused Malema, the charismatic leader of the populist Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) party, of failing to submit tax returns for years and then paying his tax bills illegally.

Following criticism from the judge overseeing the ruling in the North Gauteng High Court in Pretoria, SARS withdrew its charges that Malema should be put under a sequestration order that would have seen him lose his seat in parliament.

Judge Gregory Wright said SARS was going “hammer and tongs” for Malema, but that it had failed to show it was “embarking on a cost-efficient exercise”.

Malema, 34, who oftens accuses President Jacob Zuma of corruption, also faces racketeering and fraud charges in his home province of Limpopo.

Zuma is accused of grossly misspending public funds on lavish additions to his private home and was implicated in a multi-billion-dollar arms deal when government members are alleged to have taken kickbacks.

Following an adjournment in court, Malema left the courtroom to address thousands of his cheering supporters dressed in signature red EFF garb.

“This is not a tax matter, this is a political matter,” said Malema. “South Africa is not a banana republic because our judiciary enjoys relative independence.”