|Jacob Zuma outside the court in Durban |
South Africa's former deputy president Jacob Zuma has been charged with two counts of corruption in a Durban court.
Mr. Zuma's court appearance was very brief. He was informed of the charges against him, granted bail on a small amount, and ordered to appear in court again in October.
Mr. Zuma arrived in court to an enthusiastic welcome from several hundred supporters, some of whom had participated in an all-night vigil outside the court. They chanted political slogans; some waved posters denouncing President Thabo Mbeki, while others referred to Mr. Zuma in glowing terms.
Mr. Zuma's court appearance follows the conviction last month of his financial advisor, Schabir Shaik, on corruption and fraud charges. In convicting Shaik, Judge Hilary Squires ruled that his relationship with Mr. Zuma was generally corrupt.
Under South African law, the prosecution will not be permitted to use Judge Squires' verdict as evidence nor his assessments of any of the evidence submitted to his court. But in addition to evidence it is able to gather, the prosecution will be able to use any of the evidence presented in the Shaik case, including forensic audits of Shaik's business accounts.
Mr. Mbeki fired Mr. Zuma two weeks ago saying that court ruling had raised issues of behavior inconsistent with Mr. Zuma's job as deputy president.
His firing angered Mr. Zuma's supporters who hope he will one day lead the country. Many criticized the Shaik judgment as racist, prompting Mr. Mbeki and the ruling African National Congress to make it clear that it is up to higher courts, and neither politicians nor the executive to determine whether or not a court decision is appropriate.
"In this regard I must emphasize that I studied this judgment not to make any determination whatsoever about its merits or demerits, about whether it was wholly or partially right or wrong," Mr. Mbeki said. "Indeed such conduct does not fall within our constitutional mandate as the executive. This task belongs to the higher courts, the organs of state that would hear any appeal that might be launched."
After appearing in court, Mr. Zuma said he hoped for a speedy trial and an opportunity to present his case without further conjecture.