Zuma appeared before Judge Themba Sishi on Friday on 16 charges of corruption, money laundering and racketeering.
The accusations relate to a multi-billion-dollar arms deal signed in 1999, when Zuma was deputy president.
Zuma countered with his own legal challenges, but prosecutors re-filed the charges after Zuma was forced from power by his own party in February.
Zuma, 75, appeared relaxed during the brief hearing during which the case was adjourned until June 8.
Zuma's legal team will seek a review of National Director of Public Prosecutions Shaun Abrahams' decision that there was no reason for him not to be tried.More news: Pinwheel Garden brings awareness to Child Abuse Prevention Month
His supporters descended on the city to rally for him, while his critics think court action is long overdue.
Many pro-Zuma supporters were dressed in African National Congress colours and waved party flags.
Also in the dock was a representative of Thales, a French defense company accused of paying bribes to Zuma in the arms deal.
"I am here to support him as a leader who steered the ship as the head of the ANC and embodied the party and showed us how to do the same", said 56-year-old Zodwa Ntombela, wearing an ANC scarf.More news: Mexican Government Says US National Guard At Border Won't Be Armed
Speaking in isiZulu to a large crowd gathered outside the court, Zuma defended his name and said it had been dragged through the mud.
"I am innocent until proven guilty, but there are people who want to treat me like I am guilty", Zuma said to wild cheers.
The adviser, Schabir Shaikh, was found guilty of trying to solicit the bribes and was jailed in 2005.
Members of the ANC provincial executive committee that was dissolved - after the Pietermaritzburg High Court nullified the conference that elected them in 2015 - were seen in Court A today. We are here to support Zuma, he's our leader...
"Hands off RET (radical economic transformation), hands off Zuma", read one brandished placard.More news: Apple hires Google's former head of AI in bid to catch up
Former President Jacob Zuma's corruption trial will not start in earnest before November at the earliest - and possibly not even then. But the Civil society and opposition parties have worked tirelessly to have the charges reinstated.