South Africans protest against President Zuma’s government – troubled economy lead to calls for leader’s resignation
Protests demanding Zuma step down spreads across South Africa
Thousands attended nationwide anti-Zuma marches in cities across South Africa
The protests held in Johannesburg, Cape Town, Durban and the capital, Pretoria as Nobel Prize recipient Archbishop Desmond Tutu, joined the protesters
The demonstrations came after Zuma’s sacking of a respected finance minister, Pravin Gordhan, which led to the country’s credit rating being cut to junk status on Monday
The pro-Zuma and anti-Zuma marchers on why they turned out
Protesters have marched in cities across South Africa including Cape Town, Durban, and the capital, Pretoria calling for the removal of President Jacob Zuma.
The demonstrations came after Mr Zuma’s sacking of a respected finance minister, Pravin Gordhan, which led to the country’s credit rating being cut to junk status.
The move added pressure to South Africa’s already embattled economy. In contrast, supporters of Mr Zuma, mostly from the ruling African National Congress party, also turned out to defend the president.
This week Zuma survived calls for his resignation by powerful groups allied to the ANC. Crucially the president, who is not due to leave office until 2019 when his second five-year term comes to an end, this week won the backing of a major decision-making body within the party.
One of the immediate sources of controversy was last week’s cabinet reshuffle which saw the removal of, among others, Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan. This move has spurn the South African Rand in continued free fall, as yet a second major rating agency reduced country’s rating to junk status, Monday.
In the aftermath, South African President Jacob Zuma’s back is against the wall as the country’s currency, the rand, has lost ground, bonds and banking shares have fallen and there is a general air of impending doom.
Two of the big three ratings agencies, have lowered South Africa’s sovereign debt to below investment grade.
Ex-Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan – His sacking fueled the anti-Zuma protests
The cabinet reshuffles has led to political upheaval, even within the ruling party and it allies. Zuma’s deputy, Cyril Ramaphosa, came out in public to say the president’s decision to get rid of Mr Gordhan without consultation was “unacceptable”.
For Gwede Mantash, the ANC Secretary General, the list of ministers which Mr Zuma presented to the party leadership was compiled “elsewhere”.
Another party big whig, comrade Zweli Mkhize, the ANC’s treasurer, in protest said
“I have my reservations on the process followed and the manner in which this cabinet reshuffle was done,” he said in a statement.
In Johannesburg, there was a heavy police presence as protesters planned to converge near the ANC headquarters.
Hundreds of veterans of the ANC’s armed anti-apartheid struggle and members of the ruling party’s youth wing also gathered outside its headquarters at Luthuli House to protect the building.
Supporters of Mr Zuma told the BBC’s Milton Nkosi that they came out to promote the president’s policies. They said that Mr Zuma was promising radical socio-economic change.
One supporter said that it would be wrong to force regime change in South Africa, adding that such a move would be “going back to the dark ages of apartheid”.
Police fired tear gas and rubber bullets at protesters in one part of Johannesburg, local media are reporting.
Crowds later gathered outside a compound belonging to the wealthy Gupta family, which has ties to the president, in Johannesburg’s affluent Saxonwold suburb.
Pictures shared on social media on Friday showed large crowds assembling in Church Square in Pretoria, despite confusion over whether demonstrations in the capital are permitted by law.
Police said on Thursday that marches in Pretoria were illegal because they had not been granted permission by city authorities. But this was later overturned by a magistrate.
Protesters in the capital later marched to the seat of government, the Union Buildings,
Amid heavy police presence, the protests in the nation’s capital Pretoria were mostly orderly.
In Durban, banners stating “Jacob Zuma must step down” were draped from buildings as part of nationwide demonstrations. Protesters marched through the city with their faces painted, carrying messages of “downgrade Zuma, not South Africa” in reference to the country’s amended credit rating.
The government, which has appealed for peace during the countrywide protests, tweeted that the laws in South Africa are also there to “protect the right of those who would not like to participate in protest action”.
Earlier this week, a major decision-making body within the ruling ANC party discarded a complaint against Mr Zuma that he had failed to consult executives before reshuffling his cabinet.
The South African govt, which has appealed for peace during the countrywide protests
The move to drop the finance minister has angered across all sectors of the nation. Both Zuma’s opponents and allies have expressed their strong opposition to the move. It has led to a rift in the ruling ANC party. Some factions in the ANC leadership are questioning whether Zuma sis fit to remain as president.
Key ANC allies, the South African Communist Party (SACP) and the main trades union federation Cosatu, joined in the calls for him to go.
However, Zuma who has been described in local media as the Teflon Don because of his survival skills following the acceptance of his explanation for his controversial sacking of the finance minister, in an important move has just won the approval of the party’s National Working Committee. After discussing the cabinet reshuffle, the NWC later gave the president its backing.
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