DURBAN, South Africa — South Africa’s former president Jacob Zuma is due to appear in court in Durban on Friday to face corruption charges linked to a multi-billion dollar 1990s arms deal that dogged his time in government.
Zuma’s supporters are expected to rally at the city’s High Court to protest his prosecution which was announced just four weeks after he resigned under mounting pressure from the ruling African National Congress (ANC) party.
It is expected that Zuma will be formally charged with 16 counts of corruption, money laundering and fraud during the hearing which is likely to be brief and procedural.
On Thursday night more than 100 ardent Zuma backers rallied in Albert park in a gritty suburb of Durban to protest his innocence and demand a halt to the prosecution.
"There is an unfairness in the judiciary," warned bishop Timothy Ngcobo, one of the organisers of Thursday’s gathering.
"We believe God did stand with Jesus Christ when he was detained. We say also he can stand with Jacob Zuma," added pastor Nqoba Zindela, another organiser.
Nearby, a crowd of 50 young women, some wearing Zuma shirts, gathered below an underpass in a corner of the park to chant in support of their embattled former president.
The protesters sang liberation-era songs including "Umshini Wam", meaning "Bring me my machine gun", which Zuma often sang at ANC rallies and gatherings.
Police are expected to mount a massive security operation with the local Daily News newspaper reporting that the judge will receive a "special security escort" to court.
Zuma is accused of taking bribes from French arms maker Thales over a contract worth several billion dollars during his time as a provincial economy minister and then deputy ANC president.
Police expect that more than 2,000 protesters could descend on the court house to voice support for Zuma with the main opposition Democratic Alliance planning a counter demonstration. — AFP