Johannesburg - Former president Jacob Zuma told hundreds of supporters outside the Pietermaritzburg High Court that his lawyers wanted to see his fraud and corruption case dropped.
Zuma was speaking shortly after his appearance in the high court in the long-running corruption case which was again postponed, to 20 May next year.
Zuma told the cheering crowd that even though some individuals in the African National Congress (ANC) had turned against him, they should continue to support the ruling party to ensure that it gets a two-thirds majority next year so that it can change laws that prevent the poor from benefiting from the country's wealth.
Earlier, Zuma, whose matter dates back to 1997 when French arms company Thompson-CSF, now known as Thales, secured a multi-billion rand contract to supply four navy frigates to the South African government as part of the controversial multi-billion rand arms deal, cut a stoic figure inside the court.
The French company allegedly agreed in 2002 to pay a R500 000 bribe to Zuma who was the deputy president at the time, supposedly for “political protection” in any investigation.
On Friday, the matter was postponed to allow the court to consider Zuma's request for a permanent stay of execution.
Outside the court, Umkhonto we Sizwe Military Veterans Associations (MKVA) spokesperson Carl Niehaus told the crowd there was an intention to destroy one of the greatest commanders of the MK.
Niehaus praised Zuma for expanding social grants and free higher education, something he said Zuma's enemies did not want to happen.
“We do not believe that comrade Zuma will get a free and fair trial,” bellowed Niehaus.
He said the case has been on and off for around 17 years. “That is why we want a permanent stay of execution,” said Niehaus.
Before Zuma spoke the crowd broke into an isiZulu song. They sang “Zuma is loved”.
When he finally took to the podium, an energised Zuma sang an isiZulu song "Sengimanxebanxeba zinsizwa” that literally says his friends have turned against him.
The former ANC president told his supporters in vernacular that his lawyers have submitted papers requesting that this case should not continue. He said in the past two decades the matter has been hanging over his head even though two judges had refused to put him on trial.
"We will meet again next year to allow prosecutors to decide if they say it should continue," Zuma said amid cheers and ululation.
Pointing out that the constitution provides for accused persons to have their rights protected, Zuma said the "law must protect him as well".
He said while some people in the ANC had turned against him it did not mean the party was bad, as it was only a few individuals who were taking it upon themselves to torment him.
Zuma implored his supporters to look beyond the squabbles and remain loyal to the ANC, which he said was the only hope for poor people to end their suffering.
African News Agency (ANA)