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  • Leader of the Economic Freedom Fighter Julius Malema

    Leader of the Economic Freedom Fighter Julius Malema | Photo: Reuters

Published 4 July 2019

The law allowed the baning of public gatherings and prevented demonstrators from participating while giving police the green light to execute brutal force, if necessary.

South Africa's opposition party leader Julius Malema lost a court bid Thursday to declare unconstitutional an apartheid-era anti-riot law, under which he has been charged with incitement.

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Used during white-minority rule to prevent and clamp down on anti-apartheid rallies, the 1956 Riotous Assemblies Act defines conditions under which public gatherings can take place.

It also makes it an offense to incite another person to commit an offense.

Six decades after the law was passed to suppress rising Black anger against apartheid injustices. It was used to bring charges against Malema after he urged supporters on two occasions, in 2014 and 2016, to occupy vacant land.

However, in Pretoria, High Court Judge Aubrey Ledwaba ruled the petition "baseless and should be set aside."

After Thursday's ruling, Malema vowed to take his case to the Constitutional Court, South Africa's highest legal authority.

"We believe that it (the law) doesn't have a place in a democratic South Africa," he said. "We still believe that the Riotous Assemblies Act is unconstitutional in its entirety."

The law was passed by the whites-only parliament a year after the historic Congress of the People in Kliptown, Soweto, where anti-apartheid movements including the African National Congress (ANC), approved the so-called Freedom Charter of core principles.

After he was expelled from the governing ANC six years ago, Malema founded the leftist Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) party.

The party campaigns for South Africa's deep economic inequality to be tackled by seizing land without compensation to be redistributed among poor blacks.

The EFF won nearly 11 percent of the vote in this year's national elections, boosting its parliamentary representation from 25 to 44 seats.

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