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Last Updated: Tuesday, 21 June, 2005, 14:37 GMT 15:37 UK
SA's Zuma welcomes day in court
South African Deputy President Jacob Zuma
Zuma was dismissed as deputy president last week
South Africa's former Deputy President Jacob Zuma has welcomed his chance to appear in court on corruption charges.

He will be in Durban magistrate's court on 29 June. Mr Zuma has also relinquished his duties as deputy presidentin the ruling ANC party.

He was sacked from government last week after his financial adviser, Schabir Shaik, was convicted of corruption.

The evidence that emerged in the Shaik case prompted prosecutors to investigate charges against Mr Zuma.

Duties

Reacting to the announcement on Monday that he would be charged, Mr Zuma said in a statement: "I welcome this decision as it affords me an opportunity to respond to, and clarify the allegations that have been made against me over a period of time."

Schabir Shaik
Shaik's trial prompted a new investigation into Zuma's conduct
Mr Zuma, who has long protested his innocence and complained of being tried by the media, is expected to appear in court later this week.

The ANC National Working Committee said it had accepted a request by Mr Zuma to "withdraw his participation from all ANC structures pending the completion of the legal process."

South African newspapers have however suggested that Mr Zuma was under pressure from the party to step down from his duties. He officially retains the deputy presidency of the party.

'Deeply significant'

Opposition political parties have welcomed the NPA's announcement.

"Politically this decision is deeply significant, as it will effectively mean that Mr Zuma may now be incapable of playing any major political leadership role due to the various legal processes that will now be set in motion," said Tony Leon, leader of the opposition Democratic Alliance.

The organisations that have been most supportive of Mr Zuma - the ANC Youth League, the Congress of South African Trade Unions and the South African Communist Party - said a trial would give Mr Zuma the chance to clear his name.

"We trust that a court trial will shed light and bring finality to this matter," the SACP said in a statement.

Divisions

Mr Mbeki announced Mr Zuma's dismissal last Tuesday, saying that although Mr Zuma must be presumed innocent until proven guilty, his sacking would be in the interests of South Africa's young democracy.

The sacking was praised in South Africa and abroad as a strong signal against corruption in Africa.

But two days later, crowds attending the annual Youth Day rallies were vocal in their support for Mr Zuma and their condemnation of Mr Mbeki.

In KwaZulu-Natal, Mr Zuma's supporters threw bottles and jeered a senior ANC official, who had to leave a rally with a police escort.

Some commentators have spoken of a crisis in the ruling party as a result of the sacking.

Shaik's trial stemmed from an earlier investigation into a South African government arms deal, in which the then chief prosecutor said there was prima facie evidence against Mr Zuma, but decided there was not sufficient evidence to convict the deputy president.

But following the Shaik judgement - in which it was found that Mr Shaik had solicited a bribe on behalf of Mr Zuma - the National Prosecutions Authority began once again to investigate charges against Mr Zuma.




BBC NEWS: VIDEO AND AUDIO
Hear Jacob Zuma defend himself




SEE ALSO:
Press backs Zuma sacking
15 Jun 05 |  Africa
What next for South African politics?
14 Jun 05 |  Have Your Say
Zuma: Mbeki's toughest decision
14 Jun 05 |  Africa
Zuma: Bad days for Mr Nice Guy
07 Jun 05 |  Africa


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