A large crowd has gathered outside a court in South Africa where firebrand politician Julius Malema is due to appear on corruption charges.

Long stretches of barbed wire have been put in place in the area surrounding the court in Polokwane, capital of his home state of Limpopo.

Mr Malema is accused of abusing his former position as head of the African National Congress (ANC) Youth League.

His supporters say the charges are politically motivated.

Chanting and dancing outside the court, many members of the ANC Youth League are holding up placards saying “Hands off our leader”.

Mr Malema is currently inside the police station opposite. He will be transferred to the court later.

There is a heavy police presence but the atmosphere is calm.

Fiery rhetoric

Julius Malema and his business associates are accused of profiting from government contracts in Limpopo, an accusation which he strongly denies.

The 31-year-old politician is also the subject of a separate tax investigation.

He is well-known in South Africa for his fiery populist rhetoric and lavish lifestyle, describing himself as an economic freedom fighter.

Mr Malema was thrown out of the ANC in April, accused of sowing divisions in the party.

He is a fierce critic of his former ally, Jacob Zuma, recently attacking the president over his handling of the Marikana miners’ strikes.

According to the BBC’s Africa correspondent Andrew Harding, some in South Africa believe he is being rushed to trial – less than a week after a warrant for his arrest was issued – in order to strengthen Mr Zuma’s political position.

It is likely to be a long court battle that may offer insights into the corruption that many people believe blights South Africa, our correspondent says.

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