DEFIANT Jacob Zuma sang with supporters outside the courthouse where he was charged with 16 counts of corruption yesterday.

The 75-year-old told crowds in Durban, part of his home province of Kwa-Zulu Natal, that allegations about wrongdoing over a 1990s arms deal are politically motivated, stating: “The truth will come out.”

Zuma, who was forced out of office by the leadership of the African National Congress in February, spent just 15 minutes in the dock.

He faces 16 charges of corruption, fraud, money-laundering and racketeering which relate to a £1.8 billion arms deal arranged in 1999 when he was deputy president.

Prosecutors claim he took almost 800 illegal payments from French arms firm Thales. A representative of the company was also in the dock.

The money is said to have been paid to Zuma through his then-financial adviser Schabir Shaikh, who was sentenced to 15 years in jail over the case in 2005, but was released shortly after on medical grounds.

The claims against the politician were shelved in 2009 before his ascent to the presidency, but were reinstated in 2016. Last month the country’s chief prosecutor decided the case should go to court.

Zuma denies all wrongdoing and yesterday sang an anti-apartheid song, claiming vhe has fought for the economic rights of black South Africans for more than two decades.

Supporters carried placards stating “Hands off Zuma” as riot police looked on. If found guilty, the one-time leader could be sentenced to several years imprisonment.

He told the crowds: “It amazes me when people treat me as if I’ve given up. They want me to be treated as a prisoner,” adding: “I am innocent until proven guilty.”

The case was adjourned for the preparation of reports and will return to court in June.

Zuma, whose political career has been dogged by personal and professional scandal, was replaced as president by his deputy, Cyril Ramaphosa.