A warrant has been issued for the arrest of firebrand South African politician Julius Malema on corruption charges, his lawyer says.

South Africa’s elite Hawks unit has been investigating the allegations against Mr Malema for months.

The authorities have refused to comment in public on reports about the arrest warrant, but lawyer Nicqui Galaktiou says they have confirmed it to her.

Mr Malema, once a close ally of President Zuma, is now a fierce critic.

He strongly denies allegation he profited from government contracts in his home province of Limpopo.

According to the weekly City Press newspaper, he will be charged with fraud, corruption and money-laundering.

Ms Galaktiou told Reuters news agency Mr Malema would appear in court next week and would not be jailed or arrested before then.

“We don’t have a confirmed date yet. We have not seen the warrant of arrest. We don’t know what the charges are,” she said.

Mr Malema was expelled as head of the Youth League of the governing African National Congress in April but has recently held several rallies in the Rustenburg area, scene of a violent mining dispute.

He has been calling for a national strike and has accused Mr Zuma of ignoring the plight of poor black South Africans.

The BBC’s Milton Nkosi in Johannesburg says Mr Malema’s supporters will see the reported charges as a political witchhunt.

But our correspondent points out that the investigation began long before the recent strikes.

The ANC is due to meet in December to decide whether Mr Zuma will remain as party leader going into elections due in 2014.

Mr Malema and others are campaigning for him to be replaced.

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