Former South African Deputy President Jacob Zuma was charged in court with rape on Tuesday in a case that analysts said had virtually scuppered any hope of becoming the country's next president.
"After due consideration for the facts in the relevant case docket, the National Prosecuting Authority has decided that Jacob Zuma be arraigned in the Johannesburg Magistrate's court on a charge of rape," the prosecuting authority said in as tatement.
"To this end Mr. Zuma duly appeared in the Johannesburg Magistrate's Court today 6 December 2005 where the indictment and related documentation was served on him," the NPA said.
It said Zuma, who denies the rape charge, was freed on $3,140 bail and his case would be heard beginning Feb. 13 next year.
Zuma is already facing a corruption trial stemming from the fraud conviction of his former financial adviser.
Although he is popular among rank and file members of the ruling African National Congress, analysts say a rape charge against him looked certain to silence his followers who allege he is a victim of a political conspiracy.
The ANC had no immediate comment on Zuma's court appearance.
President Thabo Mbeki sacked Zuma in June after his deputy's former financial adviser Schabir Shaik was convicted of corruption and fraud in a court ruling that said the relationship between the two men was "generally corrupt."
Zuma as deputy president was in pole position to succeed Mbeki in 2009. His rape charge could heat up the political temperature as top ANC officials maneuver to position themselves for the top job. He has rejected the charges of corruption as a conspiracy to sideline him from the ANC leadership. The rape allegations were first published by newspapers last month.