"I am innocent until proven guilty", Zuma told the crowd.
South Africa's top court also ruled in 2016 that Zuma violated the constitution following an investigation of multimillion-pound upgrades to his private home using state funds.
"Hands off Zuma", they chanted.
Zuma had the support of senior African National Congress leaders in the province as well as former Cabinet ministers.
Zuma looked relaxed when he walked in, but his face tensed as the proceedings started.
Zuma acknowledged their support with a bow and a wave before taking his seat.
Zuma belted out Umshini Wami before he left the court. Upon leaving, he bent towards her with customary courtesy and asked Guerrier how she was.
Abrahams said he was of the view that there are reasonable prospects of a successful prosecution of Zuma. Occasionally he fiddled with his tie or pressed his glasses further up the bridge of his nose.
The case was however postponed to June 8.
Sooklal confirmed that he witnessed a meeting between the defendants in April 2004 where a discussion took place about a fax that will likely be a key piece of prosecution evidence.
Zuma sat in the dock alongside Christine Guerrier, who will represent Thales for the duration of the trial. If he chooses to stay out of that legal battle, Zuma will undoubtedly fight the case on his own.
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Crowds of mourners and political figures flocked to her home in Soweto , in Johannesburg , after news of her death broke. Her reputation was sullied by scandals in her later years, including a 1991 conviction for kidnapping and assault.
State prosecutor Billy Downer suggested that Zuma's trial start on November 12, though a lawyer for Zuma said the defense would not agree to any trial date for now.
Judge Sishi added that the two accused were released on bail - before correcting himself with a laugh. Zuma told the cheering crowd.
Zuma looked tense during the court appearance, but turned to greet supporters inside court, who packed the public gallery.
"They are humiliating our president!" one man said angrily, gesturing to the court.
"I accompanied Mr. Zuma to Mr. Sarkozy's presidential suite at his hotel in Cape Town where a meeting occurred between Mr. Sarkozy and Mr. Zuma", said Sooklal.
It was a blisteringly hot Durban morning.
Hundreds of faithful supporters‚ led by clergymen‚ activists and businessmen‚ held vigil overnight and marched to the courtroom steps ahead of his appearance.
A spokesman for the former French president was not available to comment.
Zuma's successor in both party and state leadership, Cyril Ramaphosa, has vowed to crack down on government corruption, which he has admitted is a serious problem.
He sang and danced along enthusiastically to a rendition of "Umshini Wam", a struggle-era song that means "Bring me my machine gun".
"The prosecution is because they don't want to give our land back".