Zuma celebrates 75th birthday with pledge to win fight against racism

Zuma's decision to fire Pravin Gordhan as finance minister and make 19 other changes to his administration on March 31 drew widespread criticism, prompted S&P Global Ratings to downgrade the nation's worldwide credit rating to junk and weakened the rand.

The Constitutional Court a year ago found Zuma guilty of violating the constitution after he refused to repay taxpayers' money used to refurbish his private rural house. This time, the galvanizing issue is not race, but Zuma's leadership - most recently, his controversial decision to fire a respected finance minister and eight other cabinet members. "It seems that only Zuma is right", he said.

Zuma has committed his life and energies to the liberation of the people of South Africa, in particular, the oppressed and the poor of the poorest, the ANC said.

Zuma is expected to step down in December as leader of ANC and many in his party are already canvassing for support to take over from him.

As people were protesting in Pretoria and shouting to remove the president, Jacob Zuma was encircled by his followers as he celebrated his 75 birthday in Soweto.

For many, frustration with the Zuma government is heightened by resentment that the country's rebirth as a democracy has brought them little economic benefit. As Peter Granitz reports from Pretoria, pressure is mounting on the president from both outside and inside his party.

Zuma had accused Friday's marchers of having racist motives. He was in Johannesburg, preparing to attend his 75th birthday celebrations organized by his African National Congress (ANC) Party.

Al Jazeera's Fahmida Miller, reporting from Pretoria, said the opposition parties show unprecedented unity in coming together for the protests. "Now we must unite against Jacob Zuma".

In a statement a year ago, Democratic Alliance leaders said Malema's "radical and hateful statements" have "sought to divide South Africa".

Further demonstrations are planned on Wednesday ahead of a parliamentary motion of no confidence in the president on April 18.

"We only need 65 to 70 people from the ANC, and the secret ballot can deliver the votes to remove Zuma", Bantu Holomisa, head of the smaller United Democratic Movement (UDM), which is also backing the no-confidence vote against Zuma, said. "We are going to all big cities in South Africa because everyone in South Africa is exhausted of Makhandakhanda", Malema said.

  • Leroy Wright