South African firebrand Julius Malema will voluntarily appear in court on Wednesday to face corruption charges, paving the way for a politically charged trial.
Malema is expected to answer charges that include laundering the proceeds of ill-gotten public contracts, according to draft court documents seen by AFP.
The former ANC high-flyer has been locked in a high-profile and long-running spat with his former comrades in the ruling party, and with its leader, President Jacob Zuma.
Police issued an arrest warrant for Malema, a former ANC Youth League leader, on Friday shortly after he seized on unrest at South Africa's mines to launch political attacks against Zuma.
The charges against Malema and his business colleagues detail a complex pyramid of companies accused of lying and influence peddling to gain an infrastructure contract in Malema's home province of Limpopo, worth 52 million rand ($6.3 million, 4.9 million euros.)
The proceeds are alleged to have been used to help buy Malema a Mercedes Benz Viano and a farm.
Four of Malema's associates faced similar charges on Tuesday. They pled not guilty and were granted bail. The case was postponed to 28 November.
On the eve of Malema's appearance in Polokwane, the capital of Limpopo province, about 300 kilometres (200 miles) north of Johannesburg, police beefed up security around the courthouse and announced road closures.
Several hundred people gathered for a night vigil in a local hall where supporters sang pro-Malema songs and slammed the criminal charges as a bid to silence the 31-year-old as he was a threat to Zuma.
"To us what's happening is not an issue of criminality, but it's a political ploy," said youth league member Given Mathye, wearing a t-shirt with Malema's face above a slogan "The Fearless Fighter" and a silhouette of a rifle.
"We know they want to stop him because of the conference that is coming in December -- because we want a change of leadership," he added, referring to year-end elections for the ruling ANC's top posts.
The police said security at Wednesday's court appearance will be tight.
"No lawlessness will be tolerated and those who break the law will be arrested immediately," police spokesman Hangwani Mulaudzi said, adding that dangerous weapons like firearms, knives, machetes and sticks were banned.
Malema, the former leader of the African National Congress's Youth League who was recently expelled from the ANC, has called for Zuma's removal, just as potential candidates jockey for position ahead of the key internal polls.
The party booted out the rabble-rouser in April for ill-discipline and after he was convicted of hate speech in a civil case last year.
Further compounding Malema's woes, he is also the subject of a separate tax probe. The country's revenue service told AFP on Tuesday it had been granted an order to recover back taxes Malema allegedly owes.
The authority said Malema owed at least "16 million rand ($2 million, 1.5 million euros)," spokeswoman Marika Muller said.
Malema's court appearance was not related to tax evasion, she added.
The League has been highly influential in South African politics, acting as a crucible for the careers of Nelson Mandela, Walter Sisulu and Oliver Tambo.
Despite his pro-poor stance, Malema's love of luxury has raised eyebrows. He is a lover of designer clothes and fast cars, lives in an upmarket Johannesburg suburb, and owns a Breitling watch worth some 250,000 rand ($32,000, 23,000 euros).
Using a flare-up of wildcat mining strikes to attack his enemies within the party, Malema has called for the mines to be made "ungovernable".
Violence during a strike at a mine in Marikana left 46 dead, 35 of whom were killed by police.