(File image) Julius Malema. Photo: Dumisani Sibeko

Johannesburg - A union on Wednesday laid criminal charges against the firebrand former leader of the African National Congress Youth League, Julius Malema, for inflaming tensions at mines hit by unrest.

Malema, who was axed this year by the ruling ANC for ill-discipline, has capitalised on violent strikes at South Africa's mines to take pot shots at enemies like President Jacob Zuma and push his radical views on nationalising mines.

The trade union Solidarity laid charges of incitement to public violence and intimidation against Malema at a police station near Pretoria.

“Violent protests at mines are not spontaneous. He encourages violence for his own gain. Malema is an opportunist who uses unrest to try to revive his political career,” said Solidarity spokesperson Johan Kruger.

Travelling to troubled mines, Malema has fired up worker frustrations with calls for mines to be made “ungovernable”, on which Solidarity blamed this week's violence at a Gold One mine where rubber bullets were fired and four people injured.

Malema also visited platinum giant Lonmin's Marikana mine, where a deadly illegal strike has killed 44 people.

“He continues to attempt to capitalise on the Marikana tragedy to further his own political agenda,” Kruger said. “Malema cannot be allowed to rule by fear and sow fear among foreign investors and South Africans.” - AFP