Jessie Duarte, a spokeswoman for the ruling ANC party, said Zuma would continue to fight the case.

"We as the ANC will apply for a permanent stay of prosecution," she said. "We have already begun the process of seeking legal council.

"The continuous adding of charges implies malicious intent on the part of the NPA [prosecutors]."

Presidency at stake

Outside the court house, Al Jazeera's Mohammed Adow, reported: "This is no ordinary court case.

Zuma will address supporters after the hearing [AFP]
"Elections are just months away and this court case has the possibility of either stopping him from ascending to the presidency or not.

"The South African constitution is very clear that any person who has been convicted for any period of more than six months on a criminal charge cannot be the president."

Adow reported that hundreds of supporters had gathered outside the court despite the damp, cold weather. Zuma is due to address the crowd after the hearing.

"There are more than 800 security personnel deployed around the court house. They are keeping watch for any eventuality and have barricaded the roads into the court house," Adow said.

Zuma has promised to step down if the ruling goes against him.

Independent judiciary

Professor Lawrence Hamilton, of  the University of KwaZulu-Natal, told Al Jazeera: "When you are trying to build a representative democracy, you have to put in place the rule of law.

"If supporters of a ruling party are, to some extent, wanting to undermine the process of the rule of law, it is not going to be good for your international image and investment.

"The judicial independence of South Africa is quite clear. It is safeguarded within the constitution, so this is a test case for the relationship between the state and the dominant party."