Former South African president, Jacob Zuma, has appeared in court today to face corruption charges relating to a $2.5 billion arms deal.
Wearing a dark suit, a smiling Mr Zuma waved to crowds of supporters and reporters as he mounted the steps of the High Court in Durban shortly before 0700 GMT today.
The 75-year-old, whose scandal-plagued nine years in office were marked by economic stagnation and credit downgrades, faces 16 charges including fraud, racketeering and money laundering.
Jacob Zuma is the same man Imo state governor Rochas Okorocha built a humongous statue to honour. According to reports, the statue cost the Imo state government N520m to erect. Jacob Zuma was forced to resign in February 2018.
Today in court, Mr Zuma denied any wrongdoing and challenged the decision to prosecute the case, a dramatic development on a continent where political leaders are rarely held to account for their actions before the law.
The speed with which prosecutors booked his day in court is a sign of the loss of control Mr Zuma has suffered since his successor, Cyril Ramaphosa, became head of the ruling African National Congress (ANC) in December.
However, Mr Zuma still retains some popular support, especially in his home province of KwaZulu-Natal, where the case is being heard.
Heavily armed police in riot gear lined the square outside the court, as thousands of Mr Zuma’s supporters gathered to express solidarity with a leader they say is the victim of a politically motivated witchhunt. Press play to watch the video below:
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Marchers, many clad in the distinctive yellow, green and black of the ANC, 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.
Mr Jacob Zuma’ son, Edward, told supporters at nearby park where several thousand people held an overnight vigil that his father was not worried.
“I would want to believe that as an innocent man, he is definitely not worried,” the domestic News24 agency quoted Edward Zuma as saying.