The lawyer for Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) leader Julius Malema, Ian Levitt, has defended his client’s reasons for not appearing in the East London Magistrate’s Court, saying he did not have a legal obligation to do so.

The court has issued a warrant of arrest for Malema and co-accused Adrian Snyman after they failed to appear on five counts of discharging a firearm in public.

Malema allegedly discharged a rifle during the EFF’s fifth-anniversary celebrations in Mdantsane in 2018. The execution of the warrant had been stayed until the 8 May; when Malema is due to appear in court again.

A stay of proceedings is a ruling by the court in civil and criminal procedure, stopping the further legal process in a trial or other legal proceedings.

Levitt says the court was simply following procedure by issuing the warrant of arrest.

“Absolutely not, he did not appear in court in compliance with an agreement reached in November that he did not appear in court until the matter had been set down for trial and in many cases where there had been a high profile appearance, the state can request – like in this case – a postponement, resources won’t have to be deployed and that my client just appears on the trial date. The state requested that he not be there and this was done in magistrates chambers in November last year.”

In the video below EFF spokesperson Vuyo Pambo says Julius Malema has a withheld warrant of arrest which means that he does not have to appear until the date of the trial: