The charges against Jacob Zuma, favourite to succeed Thabo Mbeki as president in next year's elections, are "political" according to ANC leaders.
Top officials from South Africa's ruling ANC on Friday called corruption charges against leader Jacob Zuma "political" and pledged he would lead the party in next year's elections despite the trial which starts next week.
"It is a political case which is trying to stop the old man from becoming the president of South Africa," ANC Youth League president Julius Malema told reporters a day after Zuma lost a last-ditch legal battle over the charges.
"Zuma must be president whether there is a court case or not," he said.
The 66-year-old leader is favourite to succeed Thabo Mbeki as president in elections to be held next year.
Gwede Mantashe, ANC secretary general, said Zuma had been "moved from prosecution to persecution."
"Jacob Zuma will lead the campaign of the ANC," he said.
The ANC leader's corruption trial is to open on Monday in Pietermaritzburg, with Zuma facing 16 charges, including money laundering and racketeering in a case which also implicates French arms firm Thales.
However, the trial may be delayed, with Zuma's lawyers expected to file legal challenges to the case.
Zuma, who toppled Mbeki as ANC leader in December, has been under investigation for the past eight years and has always maintained his innocence. He has promised to step down if convicted.
On Thursday, the Constitutional Court rejected Zuma's bid to prevent documents seized in police raids being used in evidence at the trial.
Zuma had been accused, through his ex-financial advisor, of soliciting a bribe of 500,000 rand (68,000 euros, 43,500 dollars) annually from Pretoria-base Thint, a subsidiary of French arms firm Thales, to prevent it being investigated over an arms deal. The advisor is now in jail.
ANC leaders and supporters plan to rally outside the Pietermaritzburg High Court on Monday to support Zuma.
Date created : 2008-08-01