Ex-South African President Jacob Zuma charged with 16 counts of corruption

Former President Jacob Zuma visit the Soweto home of the late Winnie Madikizela Mandela on 4 April 2018

"I am here to support him as a leader who steered the ship as the head of the ANC and embodied the party and showed us how to do the same", said 56-year-old Zodwa Ntombela, wearing an ANC scarf.

The BBC's Andrew Harding says the former president appearing in court on corruption charges is hugely symbolic for South Africa's young democracy.

Zuma is accused of taking bribes from French arms maker Thales over a contract worth several billion dollars during his time as a provincial economy minister and later as deputy ANC president.

Zuma has claimed the inquiry proved there was "not a single iota" of evidence for wrongdoing. She nodded silently at him.

After years of legal challenges, the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) last month decided Zuma must face trial.

At the end of the hearing a request to adjourn the case until 8 June so both the prosecutors and the defense can prepare submissions was approved.

That successfully resurrected Zuma's bid to become president. Local media have dubbed his prolonged battle as the "Stalingrad strategy".

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"It is important that members who would prefer to go to court to pledge their own support, do so in their own capacity as individuals", said ANC spokesperson Pule Mabe in a video posted on the party's Facebook page.

He spoke only in Zulu. The province now has no members among the ANC's top six leaders, a potentially risky source of grievance for a powerful region.

"Zuma came with ideas that are going to boost the black people".

Back when apartheid government was losing its grip on power, infighting between the ANC and the Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP) threatened the so-called reconciliation process. "The problem now, the one that I'm hated and vilified for, is that freedom without economic freedom is not complete".

Zuma, a seasoned performer, gave them what they wanted - before escaping the heat into his waiting motorcade and being whisked off.

The crowd, about 2,000 people, cheered as he spoke.

The former president acknowledged them with a smile and greeted, as journalists swarmed around him and took photographs. It was Mr Zuma who the ANC deployed to quell violence in the province.

Legal expert Paul Hoffman said Zuma and his legal team would try anything to "duck, dive, delay and defect" the case so that he may never be asked to plead to the charges.

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