JOHANNESBURG – A fraud, racketeering and money laundering case against South Africa's former President Jacob Zuma has been adjourned until next month.
The 76-year-old appeared on Friday at the Durban High Court for the second time over charges relating to a $2.5bn arms deal in the late 1990s, when he was deputy president.
He faces 16 charges of corruption, racketeering and fraud, in a set of accusations that have long dogged his political career.
The charges also include taking bribes from a French arms manufacturer relating to the deal to buy European military hardware to upgrade South Africa's armed forces after the end of apartheid in 1994.
Zuma has long denied the charges and his supporters say the former president, whose nine years in power were marked by economic stagnation and credit rating downgrades, is the victim of a politically motivated witch-hunt.
Clad in a dark suit and red tie, Zuma shook hands and laughed with his supporters as he left the court. Outside, hundreds of supporters chanted his name and waved placards.
"A person is not guilty until the court says so," said Zuma.
Without providing details, he said the people who criticise him should not "provoke" him because he would reveal allegedly incriminating information about them.
State prosecutors and Zuma's lawyers presented arguments over a start date for the trial.
Judge Mjabuliseni Madondo adjourned proceedings to July 27 for the state and defence to indicate whether they can commence the case. The matter will be heard in the nearby city of Pietermaritzburg to allow for renovations at the Durban High Court.
"There are still some applications to be launched," the judge said, adding that it was still too early to say when a trial could start.
The national prosecutor this week turned down a request by Zuma to delay Friday's hearing pending the outcome of a separate legal challenge over the state paying his legal fees.
"Zuma wants taxpayers to pay his legal fees because he says he's a former president, but opposition parties have gone to court, and they are insisting that should not be allowed to happen," Al Jazeera’s Haru Mutasa, reporting from Durban, said.
In February, Zuma resigned as president of South Africa following weeks of public pressure to step down amid long-standing corruption allegations.
He was replaced by his former deputy, Cyril Ramaphosa, who has made the fight against corruption a top priority as he seeks to woo foreign investment and revamp an ailing economy.