Supporters railing as trial set for sacked South African deputy president

Former South African Deputy President Jacob Zuma's corruption trial is set to begin July 31 in the Durban High Court, the National Prosecuting Authority said Wednesday.

Starting then will give prosecutors the time they need to prepare their case, said Makhosini Nkosi, spokesman for the authority. It was agreed by lawyers for both sides with the judge president of KwaZulu-Natal province, he said.

President Thabo Mbeki dismissed Zuma in June after a judge found there was evidence of a corrupt relationship between him and his former financial adviser, Schabir Shaik, who was sentenced to 15 years in jail for bribery and fraud.

Zuma retains his position as deputy president of the governing African National Congress and continues to wield considerable influence among the party rank and file, as well as its trade union and South African Communist Party allies.

Hundreds of chanting and ululating supporters turned out for Zuma's second court appearance in this eastern coastal city Tuesday. Some burned ANC T-shirts emblazoned with Mbeki's face a move strongly condemned by the party in a statement Wednesday.

"Such conduct demonstrates a lack of respect both for the office and the person of the president of the ANC," the statement said, reports CNN.

According to Reuters, Mbeki's top ministers denounced their actions at a cabinet meeting on Wednesday, government spokesman Joel Netshitenzhe told reporters.

"There was concern expressed with regard to the manner in which very few of the demonstrators yesterday ... were acting outside the discipline of the organisers of the demonstration," he said in a video news conference from Pretoria.

"They referred to the president (and) the burning of the T-shirts that were bearing his face and, those who understand African languages, some of the insults that were directed at him," Netshitenzhe said.

He said those involved were a minority of undisciplined elements, and that the government recognised people's right to express their views, but warned against undermining the status of the president.

"What we wish to say is that people should be cautious to ensure that whatever they do does not undermine the work of our security agencies ... and that they do not undermine the stature of our offices and especially the highest office in the land."

Zuma remains ANC deputy president and enjoys broad support from the party's grassroots, the Communist Party and the main labour bloc COSATU, all of whom have spoken out against his dismissal as national deputy president and efforts to put him on trial.


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