South African president holds firm despite challenges

President Jacob Zuma spoke at a commemoration of an anti-apartheid leader who was assassinated in 1993, sharply criticizing multiracial protests that were held Friday to express anger over Zuma's dismissal of a respected finance minister last month and past scandals linked to the president.

Zuma, 74, was referring to demonstrations on April 7 by tens of thousands of people demanding that he resign after he fired Pravin Gordhan as finance minister and reshuffled his cabinet on March 31. "It is clear that some of our white compatriots regard Black people as being lesser human beings or subhuman".

Another big protest against Zuma is planned for Wednesday in Pretoria, the capital.

The London protesters consist of South Africans who identified themselves with either African National Congress or Democratic Alliance, the two major political parties in South Africa, yet the two group are in agreement that President Zuma is too worn out to take the county forward.

This story has not been edited by Firstpost staff and is generated by auto-feed. Other marches were held in Cape Town, Durban and other parts of the country.

"We cannot allow racists to take our country backwards‚" Zuma said.

Some placards during the protests used vulgar language against Zuma, Reuters witnesses said.

"It's an effective spin strategy that's very shrewd ... because it plays on historical racial tensions in South Africa". His decision drew widespread criticism, prompted S&P Global Ratings and Fitch Ratings Ltd. to downgrade the nation's credit rating to junk and weakened the rand. It said the economic fallout from his actions "will have a massively negative effect on the poorest in our country, who are mostly black". The divided ANC, however, is seeking to project an image of unity and says it will defeat an opposition bid to oust Zuma in a parliamentary vote of no confidence on April 18.

"The majority of black people are still economically disempowered".

Black people make up 80 percent of the population, yet the lion's share of the economy in terms of ownership of land and companies remains in the hands of white people, who make up about 8 percent of the population.

  • Leroy Wright