Zuma says he is ‘prepared to die’ as legal hearings begin

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A calm and relaxed Jacob Zuma, South Africa’s ruling party chief Jacob Zuma sat in the accused’s dock in the Pietermaritzburg High Court yesterday, head bowed, taking notes, while Judge Chris Nicholson and his assessors heard legal argument around the merits of his application to have his prosecution declared unconstitutional and invalid, reports say.

Almost all media houses in South Africa report that huge crowds gathered opposite the courthouse earlier in the day when the 66-year-old ANC leader entered the dock for his trial.

In between, he waved jovially and greeted his supporters in the public gallery. But he wasted no time leaving the courtroom during adjournments.

Reports say members of the public and the numerous high-ranking politicians who attended the case intermittently listened intently to the legal argument or dozed, while others snacked surreptitiously. One man even ate a banana and slipped the peel into his jacket pocket.

It is reported that after a full day of hearings inside the courthouse related to Zuma’s argument that the charges should be declared unlawful, the case was adjourned until this morning (Tuesday).

“In my life I have never been afraid of anything,” Zuma told the crowd, speaking in Zulu. “Those who know me will know that I am not a coward. I have never been afraid of anything … I was willing to die for this country and I am prepared to die for it.”

After speaking for about 10 minutes, Zuma danced and led the crowd in singing his signature tune Awulethe Umshini Wami (“Bring Me My Machine-Gun”).

He promised to speak longer following his court appearance today, reports say.

Supporters, including some dressed in military fatigues, had spent the day dancing and singing while denouncing the charges against Zuma as a political vendetta.

Zuma has sought to have the case against him thrown out, making it likely the long-awaited trial will be further delayed.

“Where is the justice?” Zuma’s lawyer, Kemp, said during the hearing, arguing the case should be dismissed as prosecutors did not follow constitutional rules when deciding to charge Zuma.

It is the second time the state has attempted to prosecute Zuma for corruption. A judge struck the prosecutors’ last bid off in 2006, declaring their case against the populist leader was a disaster.

Zuma’s lawyers want the case declared unlawful, and if this is not successful will bring an application for a permanent stay of prosecution, arguing that repeated delays render a fair trial impossible.

Zuma is facing a total of 16 charges ranging from money-laundering to racketeering, brought against him as a result of a seven-year investigation.

The main charge against him is that he allegedly received bribes for protecting French arms company, Thint, in an investigation into a controversial arms deal.

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