Former South African president Jacob Zuma appeared in a Durban High Court in KwaZulu-Natal yesterday to face corruption charges and emerged defiant, telling supporters that the case against him was politically motivated.
The proceedings got under way at 9:30am but was over after about 10 minutes.
The case was postponed to June 8.
Zuma is facing 16 charges relating to 783 payments he allegedly received in connection with the controversial arms deal.
“One day they will wish (the case never) continued”.
These were the words former president Zuma is alleged to have spoken when he addressed a sea of supporters, dressed in the African National Congress colours of green, gold, and black, outside the court yesterday morning after the brief court appearance.
His supporters carried placards reading “Hands off Zuma” and performed the high-stepping toyi-toyi protest dance made popular in South Africa’s decades-long struggle against apartheid.
Zuma was flanked by former minister of cooperative and traditional affairs Des van Rooyen and Eastern Cape ANC heavyweight Andile Lungisa as he walked up the steps into the court building.
Inside the court, former SABC chief operating officer Hlaudi Motsoeneng could be seen sitting on a bench near ANC KwaZulu-Natal leader Sihle Zikalala. The uMkhonto we Sizwe Military Veterans’ Association was also represented in the form of Carl Nieuhaus and Mabel Rweqana.
SACP general secretary Blade Nzimande indicated on Wednesday that his party would not be in court. Nzimande was previously a long-time ally of Zuma, and was key in ensuring the former president’s rise to power in 2007.
Speaking in isiZulu to a large crowd gathered outside the court, Zuma defended his name and said it had been dragged through the mud.
He said the case had been reinstated for political reasons.
Zuma also pointed out that 13 years have passed since he last appeared in court for the same charges and blamed opposition parties for the case’s return to court.
Opposition parties turned to the courts because they had failed in Parliament, he told the crowd.
“They don’t say: ‘There are allegations against Zuma.’ They only say: ‘Zuma is corrupt.’”
Zuma thanked the crowd for supporting him, as they had previously.
He claimed he was innocent, even though he was being treated like a criminal.
“Our country’s Constitution states that the accused is innocent until proven guilty. However, there are some people, even people whom I trusted, who have judged me as guilty already. The truth will be revealed in time.’’
“Your presence here shows that you understand the Constitution and law that well.”
Zuma belted out Umshini Wam (Bring me my machine gun) before he left the court.
Forced to resign by the ANC last month, Zuma was at the centre of a 1990s deal to buy billions of dollars of European military hardware to upgrade South Africa’s post-apartheid armed forces.
But the deal was mired in scandal and controversy from the start, with many inside and outside the ANC questioning the spending given the massive social problems, from health to education, Nelson Mandela’s party had to address after coming to power in 1994.
Zuma was deputy president at the time. Schabir Shaikh, his former financial adviser, was found guilty and jailed in 2005 for trying to solicit bribes for Zuma from a subsidiary of French arms company Thales.
The company is facing charges in the same case. The Herald