ON WEDNESDAY, former African National Congress (ANC) Youth League leader Julius Malema claimed that the decision to charge him with money laundering was politically motivated, and had nothing to do with his guilt or innocence.
While Mr Malema faces a legal battle, it is the political fight that seems to excite him more.
At the moment, President Jacob Zuma seems to have the upper hand: he is the incumbent president and has managed to ensure Mr Malema is now outside the ANC. But Mr Malema appears to have found a weapon that could be powerful in his fight with Mr Zuma: his claim that state organs "are being abused".
At the same time, the Limpopo ANC, which made the same claim on the decision to charge Mr Malema, appears to be backtracking.
There are eerie similarities with Mr Zuma’s political history and the decision to charge Mr Malema — the crowds outside court, claims around corruption, political leaders showing their support in person, and a claim of a "political conspiracy". In Mr Zuma’s case, he refused to name those he believed were using law enforcement agencies against him.
However, his attorney, Michael Hulley, obtained a series of tapes showing there may have been a political motive in deciding to charge Mr Zuma just days after he became ANC leader at the 2007 Polokwane conference. But the circumstances around how Mr Hulley obtained those tapes have never been fully explained, while other claims have since emerged of how Mr Zuma may have used the intelligence services during the run-up to Polokwane.
Since Mr Zuma became president, he has been accused of interfering in the criminal justice system — particularly through his decision to appoint Menzi Simelane as national director of public prosecutions. That decision has since been overturned by the Supreme Court of Appeal, and will be heard on appeal by the Constitutional Court.
By the time Mr Zuma nominated Judge Mogoeng Mogoeng as chief justice last year, suspicions had grown, and many legal commentators asked publicly whether Mr Zuma was trying to pack the bench.
It appears that it is these suspicions that Mr Malema is playing on. While part of his strategy is to "play the victim", as Mr Zuma did before him, the other part is to bolster his claim, made just before his ejection from the party, that "the ANC has changed from a democracy to a dictatorship under Zuma".
This claim may also gain impetus following the behaviour of the Limpopo ANC. On Tuesday, the provincial party, a long-time supporter of Mr Malema, said the charges were motivated by a "repressive political intent to erode hard-won rights of citizens to gather, express themselves, associate with other persons or groupings, affiliate to organisations of their own choosing, generally, the right to freedom of association, speech and so on".
On Wednesday, the ANC said it was deeply concerned by that statement, and it believed state agencies were independent.
However, behind the scenes it appears there was political shifting. Yesterday, ANC Limpopo provincial secretary Soviet Lekganyane, in a radio interview about this issue, said: "This is before the courts, and we have come out very clearly and said that there is a constitution that everyone must observe." It appears he may have come under some pressure to change his stance on this issue.
This may indeed help prove Mr Malema’s claim that Mr Zuma is a "dictator" who refuses to allow people freedom of political activity, and thus weaken Mr Zuma ahead of the ANC’s Mangaung conference.
• Grootes is the host of the Midday Report on Talk Radio 702 and 567 Cape Talk.