By Gugu Mbonambi, Yusuf Moolia and Sapa

ANC Youth League president Julius Malema has accused a journalist of forging his signature in a bid to discredit him, although it is not clear whether he plans to press charges.

The controversial Malema also defended his hero and former youth league leader, the late Peter Mokaba, who was described as a confessed apartheid agent by a newspaper columnist last week.

Malema was speaking at an ANCYL rally in Durban, on the day that the City Press newspaper proclaimed him a liar on its front page.

The newspaper said it had proof that he did indeed hold shares in a company that had won lucrative contracts in his home province of Limpopo.

It accused Malema of lying when he claimed at a press conference last week that he had never signed any papers to become a member of SGL Engineering Projects - a company of which he became a director and majority shareholder last May.

The newspaper published extracts of a form apparently signed by Malema as a company director as proof that he remaineda director, despite his claims to the contrary.

It said company registration records it had seen last week showed that Malema owned 70 percent of SGL Engineering Projects and that, in addition to signing on as director, he signed in order giving power of attorney to his business partner. He had signed a third time to take up his majority shareholding, it said.

But in his latest accusations that the media were out to smear him, Malema told the rally in Durban that the report was all lies.

"A journalist decided to fake a signature of Julius Malema because they want to portray me as a bad person," he said during the rally in Lamontville.

It could not be established whether the youth league leader had opened a case of fraud against the reporter in question.

ANCYL spokesman Floyd Shivambu declined to comment.

"Don't ever phone me at this time. I only work office hours," he said before cutting the call.

Last night, City Press editor-in-chief Ferial Haffajee said she was shocked by Malema's claim and that the newspaper would consult lawyers. Haffajee said she had personally seen the documents and would stand by the reporters.

Moreover, they had offered to send the documents to the youth league so that Malema's signatures could be verified, but this offer had not been taken up.

"I will stand by the report. There is no reason for us to forge these documents. Throughout the week the youth league has hit out at newspapers and journalists, but not once have the gone to the ombudsman or the courts," she said.

Malema told the media last week that he had instructed his lawyers to remove him as director of four companies in May 2008 after he was elected ANC youth leader.

He added that he had not received R140 million from government contracts.

The Companies and Intellectual Property Registration Office (Cipro) confirmed last week that Malema remained listed as the director of four companies, including SGL Engineering Projects, which was registered in December 2009.

It had not received any written notification that Malema had resigned his directorships as claimed.

Malema also defended Mokaba in his address yesterday, saying attempts to discredit his predecesor were aimed at demoralising the league.

Author Jacob Dlamini, writing in Business Day last week, noted that the corruption in the league "did not begin with Malema".

"The rot set in under Peter Mokaba, a confessed apartheid agent and a man as corrupt as they came. Mokaba drove a five-series BMW and owned at least one hair salon when many of his political contemporaries were still getting around by minibus taxi.

"Mokaba helped set up a national tourism forum through which he and some ANC Youth League comrades, one of whom is now a deputy minister, fleeced the Taiwanese of millions of rands."

But Malema told supporters that Mokaba had been portrayed as an apartheid spy because he represented change.

"The media will never win because we (youth league members) are encouraged by the spirits of our forefathers," said Malema.

He said the media had also tried to portray Zuma as a bad person.

Although no one has accused Malema of theft, but have questioned the practice of tenderpreneurs by highly placed politicians, the youth league leader nevertheless insisted that he had not stolen from the poor.

"I have not stolen anything from the poor. If I have stolen from the poor President Jacob Zuma's government has a right to arrest me. I must be investigated, arrested and prosecuted. This attack on us is aimed at derailing the leadership of the youth... But the media will not succeed," he said.