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South Africa: Undeterred Zuma promises to face adversaries in court

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MARCO LONGARI/AFP or licensors -

South Africa

Former South Africa’s President Jacob Zuma remains unbowed.

Zuma said he is ready to face his adversaries in court.

He spoke to a crowd of supporters after his court appearance in Pietermaritzburg over graft allegations.

"There are those who will curse me in and out, with all sorts of swear words. We will hear it for ourselves during court proceedings, but these are the same people who are prosecuting in the case."  Zuma said.The corruption trial of South Africa's scandal-tainted Jacob Zuma was postponed once again on Monday, this time to May 26, as backers of the former president staged a boisterous show of support.

Zuma faces 16 charges of fraud, graft and racketeering relating to a 1999 purchase of fighter jets, patrol boats and military gear from five European arms firms for 30 billion rand, then the equivalent of nearly $5 billion.

The 79-year-old Zuma, who was president Thabo Mbeki's deputy at the time, is accused of accepting bribes totalling four million rand from one of the firms, French defence giant Thales.

The case has been postponed numerous times as Zuma, who has described the trial as a "political witch hunt", lodged a string of motions to have the charges dropped.

In the latest snag last month, all of Zuma's lawyers quit without explanation.

The ruling African National Congress (ANC) forced Zuma to resign in 2018 after a mounting series of scandals.

Zuma struck a defiant note after Monday's postponement, telling supporters outside the courthouse: "If I were to reveal the things I know about other people, it would be a disaster."

Zuma was the feared intelligence chief of Nelson Mandela's ANC during the party's years in exile under apartheid, hunting down traitors and informers.

Zuma also spent 10 years on Robben Island as a political prisoner. He has constantly played cat-and-mouse with the anti-corruption commission that he himself set up in early 2018 in an abortive bid to convince the country that he had nothing to hide.

At Monday's brief hearing, nearly everyone rose as Zuma, dressed in a dark blue suit, entered the wood-panelled courtroom at the Pietermaritzburg High Court.

In response, he clasped his hands in front of his chest.

A man sitting in the public gallery chanted "Long live Jacob Zuma, long live!"

Outside, dozens of supporters wearing military fatigues, some dancing, formed an honour guard as Zuma left the court building.

Zuma said he was "ready for trial and waiting for the law to take its course", while warning he would "fight if the laws are bent".

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