Skirmishes in Jo'burg as South Africans protest against Zuma

The downgrade Friday followed a similar move earlier this week by the Standard & Poor's ratings agency.

The President who has been accused of corruption at different times recently fired his finance minister, Pravin Gordhan, a decision viewed as tactic to weed out those who checks the excesses of the president.

Fitch said the reshuffle, in which widely respected Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan was sacked, will discourage companies further from investing in South Africa.

Zuma and the ruling party, which suffered big losses in municipal elections previous year, have been weakened by other scandals around the president.

According to the Sunday Times, a WhatsApp group called the "Black Economic Empowerment Foundation" sent back and forth messages about the downgrade, with Black Business Council president Danisa Baloyi ignorantly telling the group that many South Africans don't have "billions on the stock exchange" and that most black people were born in junk status and wouldn't be bothered.

"We are deeply concerned by the inflammatory language used by people professing to speak on behalf of the ANC Youth League and the MK Military Veterans Association‚ who say they are acting in defence of Zuma".

Johannesburg was thronged with the DA's signature blue while Luthuli House, the nerve centre of the ruling African National Congress (ANC), was surrounded by its veteran anti-apartheid fighters, dressed in camouflage, in a show of loyalty to Zuma.

The cabinet overhaul - which was announced in a midnight statement - cleared out many of Zuma's critics and placed loyalists in key positions.

Junk status was likely to increase the cost of the government's debt and shrink public funds available for welfare, health, education and housing. In the capital, Pretoria, they marched to the Union Buildings, which houses the offices of Zuma and other government officials.

He is due to step down as head of the ANC in December, ahead of the 2019 general election.

Zuma, 74, will face a no-confidence motion in parliament on April 18 sponsored by opposition parties.

  • Leroy Wright