S.African Court indicts Zuma
By Spokes Mashiyane
DURBAN, South Africa (Reuters) – Sacked South African
deputy president Jacob Zuma was formally indicted on corruption
charges on Saturday in a case that has split the ruling ANC and
tested the country’s young democracy.
Zuma appeared briefly in the Durban magistrate court and
was informed of the indictment and told his trial will begin on
July 31 next year and will run until November 14. His 1,000
rand bail was also extended.
Zuma arrived at court wearing a gray suit in a convoy of
armoured vehicles flanked by body guards to be greeted by some
5,000 supporters who had staged an overnight vigil.
After the short hearing, he addressed the crowd.
“I thank you. I thank you for your tolerance and good
behavior. And I thank you for not insulting other ANC leaders,
strengthening our party discipline,” he said in his native
Rowdy scenes greeted Zuma’s last court appearance in
October, when his backers burned T-shirts bearing portraits of
President Thabo Mbeki and chanted “down with Mbeki.”
The corruption scandal has forced Zuma out of office, but
his supporters believe he will be South Africa’s next
Zuma led his supporters in singing a liberation war song
“my machine, my machine,” a figurative call to war, signaling
he was prepared to fight to prove his innocence.
The crowds were joined by ANC heavyweights including party
secretary general Kgalema Motlanthe, Natal premier Sbu Ndebele
KwaZulu and ANC Youth league president Fikile Mbalula.
Although he was dismissed as the country’s deputy
president, Zuma is still ANC deputy president. The ANC’s Youth
League and its ally the SA Communist Party, have offered Zuma
public platforms to proclaim his innocence.
The supporters also held a fundraising gala dinner on
Friday in which about 400,000 rand was raised to contribute to
Zuma’s legal bill expected to be around 12 million rand.
Two South African defense companies have been charged with
corruption alongside Zuma.
Thint (Pty) Ltd and Thint (Pty) Holding Ltd are
subsidiaries of French arms manufacturer Thales in South Africa
and bid for contracts in a multibillion-dollar arms deal at the
center of the charges.
Zuma is accused of trying to solicit a bribe of 500,000
rand a year in return for protection from a government probe
into irregularities in the weapons deal.
The state says it has more than 100 witnesses in the case.
Mbeki sacked Zuma in June after his popular deputy’s former
financial adviser Schabir Shaik was convicted of corruption and
fraud in a court ruling that said the relationship between the
two men was “generally corrupt.”
Political analysts say Zuma’s only chance of becoming South
Africa’s president is if the court clears him of the charges.