The National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) on Thursday said that a threat to privately prosecute EFF leader Julius Malema for fraud and corruption was tantamount to interfering with the body's work.
"A decision to prosecute has not been taken [by the NPA] yet," spokesperson Luvuyo Mfaku said.
He was responding to AfriForum's Advocate Gerrie Nel, who announced that Malema and his co-accused would be privately prosecuted for fraud and corruption should the NPA not heed the organisation's demand for a case against them to be reinstated after it was struck off the roll in 2015.
Malema initially faced those charges in relation to a R52m contract awarded to On-Point Engineering.
The State previously alleged that Malema substantially benefited from the tender payment to On-Point, using it to buy a farm and a Mercedes-Benz.It said Malema's Ratanang Family Trust was an indirect shareholder in On-Point.
'They will not dictate to us'
The case was struck off the roll after one of his co-accused fell ill and the case dragged on.
Mfaku said AfriForum wrote to the NPA on March 19 asking about the status of the matter.
"We responded to them, informing them that a prosecutor had been appointed and they were applying their mind. We also told them that the prosecutor had instructed the investigating officer to relook at all the evidence, so that we have all the evidence and that witnesses were being interviewed."
Mfaku said the NPA informed the lobby group that it would make a decision on or before August 18 on whether to prosecute Malema or not.
"AfriForum is very disingenuous in rushing to make an announcement to the public, while we are still considering the matter. The NPA will not be pressured by AfriForum - they will not dictate to us either. If there are prospects of a successful prosecution, then we will prosecute. If there [aren't] then we will not prosecute," said Mfaku.
Nel, who is the head of AfriForum's private prosecuting unit, held a press briefing in Centurion on Thursday where he said the group would prosecute Malema and his co-accused should the NPA not heed the organisation's demand.
'Bring it on'
CEO of AfriForum, Kallie Kriel, said Malema should have his day in court.
"Even though Malema seems to think he is untouchable, he is definitely not above the law. AfriForum will therefore see to it that Malema is called to account. Someone like Malema, who claims to represent the poor people and then plunders the state coffers to enrich himself at the cost of service delivery to poor people, must be exposed for who and what he really is," said Kriel.
It did not take the fiery leader long to respond to AfriForum's announcement.
Malema said in a tweet: "Bring it on bloody racists, you don't scare me at all. I'm born ready! No white man will decide my destiny, the poor masses of our people will..."
AfriForum said it would not respond to Malema's tweet.
Nel explained that On-Point, in which Malema's family trust had a vested interest, was appointed in 2009 to assist the Limpopo department of roads and transport with infrastructure development, maintenance and planning and in doing so received bribes from successful tender bidders.
"AfriForum laid a charge against Malema at the Brooklyn police station in Pretoria on July, 24, 2011 in terms of the Prevention and Combating of Corrupt Activities Act, 2004 (Act No. 12 of 2004) in connection with On-Point's corrupt activities."
NPA's 'inaction unacceptable'
He said after the Hawks investigated the charge and found proof of corruption, the NPA started the prosecution of Malema.
"However, on August, 4, 2015 the case against Malema was struck from the roll of the Polokwane High Court after one of Malema's co-accused could not attend the hearing due to illness.
"The NPA neglected to place the case on the roll again during the two years and eight months that have since passed."
On March 19, 2018, AfriForum sent a letter to the NPA in which it demanded the reinstatement of the prosecution.
Nel said: "In reaction hereto the NPA informed AfriForum in writing that the reinstatement of the charges against Malema is currently being considered and that a final decision will be taken by August 2018."
Based on that response, Nel said AfriForum would privately prosecute Malema should the NPA decide to not reinstate the case against him and his co-accused.
Nel said it was unacceptable that the NPA, after more than 30 months, had failed to take the corruption case against Malema any further.
He said he suspected that Malema and his co-accused were being protected.
Public Protector's finding
"AfriForum's private prosecuting unit was established for the very reason of ensuring that equality before the law is upheld and that the NPA does its work effectively. The NPA neglected its duty by simply abandoning the case against Malema," said Nel.
"On-Point itself profited from tenders that were awarded, even though the company provided assistance in these procurement processes.
"An example hereof is the agreement that was entered into between On-Point and Mpotseng Infrastructure CC, in which it is indicated that On-Point would receive compensation for a tender that was awarded to Mpotseng Infrastructure.
"In this contract it is agreed that On-Point's involvement may not even be disclosed to the National Treasury. AfriForum also obtained an invoice in which On-Point requests compensation of R1.2m from Mpotseng Infrastructure."
Former Public Protector Thuli Madonsela in 2012 found that the awarding of the tender was unlawful.
"The awarding of [the] tender by the department to On-Point was unlawful, improper and constituted maladministration," she said at the time.
Madonsela went on to say that On-Point and Malema benefited improperly from the contract.