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Last Updated: Tuesday, 14 February 2006, 09:44 GMT
S Africa's Zuma rape case delayed
Former SA deputy president Jacob Zuma
Mr Zuma had been seen as a possible future president
The rape trial of former South African Deputy President Jacob Zuma has been postponed to 6 March.

This comes after Judge Bernard Ngoepe stood down as the trial began on Monday, at the request of the defence.

Several hundred supporters demonstrated outside the court on Tuesday - fewer than when the trial began on Monday.

Mr Zuma's support has waned since rape charges were laid, but he remains a popular politician. He is also to be tried for corruption later this year.

Defence lawyers argued in the Johannesburg High Court on Monday that Judge Ngoepe might be biased as he issued warrants for a search of Mr Zuma's offices in the corruption case last year.

It is not clear who will preside over the trial when it resumes.

On Tuesday, Justice Ezra Goldstein granted the postponement on the request of defence lawyers who had asked for more time to study documents presented by the prosecution on Monday.

It is alleged that Mr Zuma raped a family friend - a woman in her 30s - at his home in Johannesburg last November.

Mr Zuma, 63, denied the charges when the trial began in the city on Monday.

He was sacked from the government last year and was later charged with corruption.

Demonstration

Judge Ngoepe announced his decision to stand down soon after the trial began.

"For the protection of the credibility of the judiciary... I have decided to step aside," he said.

Zuma supporters
Zuma remains a popular politician
Judge Ngoepe expressed fears his decision might imply Mr Zuma had the power to chose who was judging him, but believed the need to ensure impartiality was more important.

Many of Mr Zuma's supporters say he is the victim of a political conspiracy and have accused the judicial system of bias.

Up to 1,000 people gathered to back the former deputy president outside the city's High Court on Monday.

The immediate area outside the court was cordoned off but some of Mr Zuma's supporters got through.

There was also a separate group of about 50 anti-rape protesters.

Mr Zuma is a veteran of the ANC struggle to end apartheid. At one stage he was championed by trade unionists and those on the political left as a likely presidential candidate to succeed Thabo Mbeki.

Mr Zuma remains deputy leader of the ruling ANC although it has been agreed that he should not perform any executive functions.

The charges of rape and corruption, for which he is to face trial in July, appear to have left his political career in tatters.




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