0347 GMT April 21, 2018
After the 75-year-old's 15-minute appearance at the High Court in Durban on Friday morning, the case was adjourned until June 8, BBC reported.
He faces 16 counts of corruption, racketeering, fraud and money laundering, which dogged his presidency and were reinstated in 2016.
Zuma, who was forced out of office in February, denies any wrongdoing.
His supporters descended on the city to rally for him, while his critics think court action is long overdue.
After the hearing, Zuma addressed the crowds, who had come to stand alongside him at the court in his home province.
"I have never seen it before where someone is charged with a crime, those charges are dropped and then years later those same charges are reinstated. This is a just a political conspiracy," he said in Zulu.
The arms deal took place in 1999, the year Zuma moved from being a provincial minister to deputy president.
He is accused of accepting bribes from French arms firm Thales via his financial adviser.
The adviser, Schabir Shaikh, was found guilty of trying to solicit the bribes and was jailed in 2005.
The case against Zuma was dropped shortly before he ran for president in 2009.
Zuma's opponents had long fought for him to be charged over the 1990s bribes.
The charges were reinstated in 2016 as his grip on the ruling African National Congress (ANC), weakened.
He was facing his ninth vote of no-confidence in parliament before he left office, forced out by the ANC.
His rule was beset with a series of scandals, including claims of state looting.
In 2016, a court ruled that he breached his oath of office by using government money to upgrade a private home in the rural area of Nkandla. He later repaid the money.
Last year he was also accused of profiteering from a relationship with the wealthy Gupta family — allegations that both parties have denied.
In February, Zuma resigned following intense pressure from the ANC party. He had been told to step down or face another vote of no-confidence in parliament.
Zuma's remaining supporters argue that he is being targeted for backing a radical economic reform agenda.