Jacob Zuma's supporters say the charges are politically motivated
Jacob Zuma will lead South Africa's ruling ANC into this year's elections even if he is charged with corruption, the president has said.
Kgalema Motlanthe was speaking ahead of Monday's Supreme Court ruling on whether the charges should be dropped.
State prosecutors have appealed against a ruling that they were wrong to resurrect the charges last year.
As ANC leader, Mr Zuma would be the strong favourite to become president after the polls in a few months' time.
"So as far as the ANC is concerned, if the Nicholson judgement is overturned, whatever happens thereafter must run its course, even if he is charged," Mr Motlanthe told South Africa's Mail and Guardian newspaper.
June 2005: Sacked as deputy president
October 2005: Charged with corruption
December 2005: Charged with rape
April 2006: Acquitted of rape charges
September 2006: Corruption case collapses
December 2007: Elected ANC president; re-charged with corruption shortly afterwards
September 2008: Judge rules corruption case cannot proceed
October 2008: Prosecutors given leave to appeal
2009: Elections due
"He remains the ANC's contender for presidency of the country in this year's elections."
Mr Zuma, 65, has always denied charges of graft, money-laundering and racketeering, stemming from a controversial $5bn 1999 arms deal. He has said he would only resign from public office if convicted.
His supporters say the charges were part of a plot to prevent him becoming president.
He won a bitter contest a year ago against former President Thabo Mbeki to leader the African National Congress.
When Judge Chris Nicholson dismissed the case on a technicality in September, he stressed his ruling had no bearing on the guilt or otherwise of Mr Zuma.
But he said there was evidence of political interference - that Mr Mbeki had colluded with prosecutors against Mr Zuma as part of the "titanic power struggle" within the ANC.
This led to Mr Mbeki standing down as president and his replacement by Mr Motlanthe, an ally of the ANC leader.
The shadow of corruption has been hanging over Mr Zuma for several years.
In 2005, Mr Zuma 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 the arms deal.
Mr Zuma then went on trial, but that case collapsed in 2006 when the prosecution said it was not ready to proceed.
He was also charged with rape but acquitted in 2006.