Former South African president Jacob Zuma sat in the dock of a packed courtroom on Friday to face corruption charges in a long-running case that fuelled the public anger that finally forced him from power. Zuma, 75, appeared relaxed during the brief hearing during which the case was adjourned until June 8. He later emerged from the courthouse in the coastal city of Durban to address a large crowd of supporters, many sporting regalia of the ruling African National Congress party.
The charges are politically motivated, Zuma said. The ruling party leadership had instructed Zuma to resign in February after a leadership crisis that destabilized the ANC, which was already weakened by other scandals during Zuma’s presidency. At the hearing, Judge Themba Sishi said Zuma was free “on warning.” Zuma supporters gathered near the courthouse to declare that the former leader is not guilty of fraud, racketeering and money laundering. Durban is in Zuma’s home province of KwaZulu-Natal. “Hands off Zuma,” they chanted.
The corruption charges were recently reinstated after being thrown out nearly a decade ago and relate to an arms deal in the 1990s, when Zuma was deputy president. Zuma, who resigned Feb. 14, says he has not done anything wrong.
He was replaced as president by his deputy, Cyril Ramaphosa, who has promised a robust campaign against corruption and also seeks to rebuild a ruling party whose moral stature has diminished since it took power at the end of white minority rule in 1994.