Sunday 22 April 2018

Thousands call for Zuma to step down in protests

Members of the main opposition Democratic Alliance party in Johannesburg, Friday, April 7, 2017, as thousands of South Africans demonstrate in major cities against President Jacob Zuma. Photo: AP
Members of the main opposition Democratic Alliance party in Johannesburg, Friday, April 7, 2017, as thousands of South Africans demonstrate in major cities against President Jacob Zuma. Photo: AP

Stuart Graham

Tens of thousands of South Africans took to streets in a mass call for President Jacob Zuma to step down amid accusations of corruption.

Supporters of Mr Zuma (74) said they would retaliate against the protesters with sticks and cattle prods, but most of the marches passed off peacefully around the country.

In Johannesburg, four people were injured after police "fired rubber bullets at protesters who were attacking other protesters with stones", authorities said.

In Pretoria, around 40,000 people of all races gathered beneath the statue of Boer leader Paul Kruger in Church Square ahead of a march through the city to the government's headquarters, The Union Buildings.

Trade union leader Zwelenzima Vavi, a former ally of Mr Zuma, said the president was a "crook" and that helping him win power at the African National Congress's election in 2007 had been a "fundamental error".

"We are here to fight a tyrant in the form of President Jacob Zuma," Mr Vavi said.

"And when you fight a tyrant, you mobilise everybody."

In Johannesburg, 600 members of the ruling party's Military Veterans' Association, who were dressed in military fatigues, stamped their boots and sang songs as they guarded the ANC's headquarters against the anti-Zuma protesters.

Thousands of ANC supporters marched to the nearby park, many of them brandishing sticks and golf clubs.

Anger has built across the country since last week when Mr Zuma fired nine cabinet members, including his highly respected finance minister Pravin Gordhan (67), whom he replaced with an ardent loyalist.

Mr Gordhan was involved in a bitter feud with Mr Zuma during his 18-month tenure as finance minister, blocking various projects and tender, including a multi-billion euro deal for Russia to build eight nuclear reactors in South Africa.

Mr Gordhan refused to sign off on the deal, saying it would bankrupt the country.

Opposition parties are pushing for a motion of no confidence to be passed against Mr Zuma in the ANC-dominated Parliament. They need 201 out of the 400 MPs to vote with them but it is uncertain if they will win the numbers.

Credit ratings agency Fitch followed S&P Global Ratings's decision earlier in the week and downgraded South Africa to "junk", citing Mr Gordhan's dismissal as one reason. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Telegraph.co.uk

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