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Page last updated at 12:13 GMT, Tuesday, 5 August 2008 13:13 UK

Zuma fate delayed till September

Mr Zuma's supporters outside court on Tuesday 5 August
Large crowds have been showing their support for the ANC leader

A South African judge says he will rule next month on whether the corruption trial of the leader of South Africa's ruling party, Jacob Zuma, can go ahead.

Judge Chris Nicholson also set 8 December as a provisional date for a criminal trial.

Mr Zuma, who is favourite to become president next year, denies charges of corruption linked to an arms deal.

His legal team have argued that delays in bringing the case to court mean he would not get a fair trial.

For the second day running, a large crowd of Mr Zuma's supporters has gathered outside the High Court where Judge Nicholson set 12 September as the date he would give his ruling.

'Conspiracy'

Mr Zuma's colleagues in the leadership of the African National Congress (ANC) are standing firmly by him.

They say he is been the victim of a political conspiracy intended to prevent him becoming South Africa's president in elections due to be held before July 2009.

Mr Zuma has said he will stand down as ANC leader only if he is found guilty of the charges - corruption, fraud, racketeering and money-laundering.

Jacob Zuma singing

Critics say he is just trying to delay proceedings until after he is elected president.

The shadow of corruption has been hanging over Mr Zuma for several years.

In 2005 he was sacked as South Africa's deputy president when his financial adviser, Schabir Shaik, was found guilty of soliciting a bribe on behalf of Mr Zuma and jailed for 15 years in connection with an arms deal.

Mr Zuma then went on trial, but the case collapsed in 2006 when the prosecution said it was not ready to proceed.

He was charged again last December shortly after winning a bitter campaign against President Thabo Mbeki to become ANC leader.

Mr Zuma suffered a setback last week when he lost a legal bid to stop documents seized from his home and other locations being used as evidence in a trial.

The ANC says it expects Mr Zuma, a former deputy president, to be its candidate for president in next year's election, when Mr Mbeki steps down.

In February 2006, Mr Zuma was acquitted of rape in a separate case, though he was widely criticised for comments about sex and HIV/Aids.


Are you in Pietermaritzburg? Can Mr Zuma be president while facing corruption charges?

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