Pressure builds on Zuma as opposition forces amass in Pretoria

"Zuma should just do the honourable thing and hand over power to other people. Zuma must leave office and the soonest he does that the better, because this country must recover economically", said Mr Malema.

The president would later take part in his 75th birthday celebrations at a public venue in the township of Soweto, near the commercial hub of Johannesburg. The group said the relegation of the country to junk status by credit ratings agencies Standard and Poor and Fitch spoke volumes.

But days later, after a party meeting, the ANC threw its weight behind Zuma and vowed to shoot down the no-confidence motion brought by the opposition.

Some posters depicted black people as baboons, Zuma said, stressing that "racists have become more emboldened" in the country.

There have been growing calls for Zuma to resign after he reshuffled the cabinet on March 31, sacking or replacing 10 ministers and 10 deputy ministers.

Reacting to the march, the ANC said those marching against Zuma were well within their constitutional rights.

South Africa's ex-leader Thabo Mbeki on Tuesday waded into a no-confidence debate against President Jacob Zuma, urging lawmakers to set aside political affiliation during next week's vote.

Ironically, President Zuma's foe, Pravin Gordhan, the former Finance Minister fired a fortnight ago, shares a birthday with the president. The Democratic Alliance, the main opposition party, includes many members of the white minority that still controls much of the economy 23 years after the end of apartheid.

Protester Ntshebele Baphela, 35, a supporter of Malema's far-left Economic Freedom Fighters party, said the long-ruling African National Congress, the party Zuma leads, is his true target. "Those rich people. they've been hating for a while now".

"As you are my leader we continue to tackle those hard issues and I need you to be strong all the time", he said, seemingly referring to the trade union federation's call last week for Zuma to step down.

"We have united for the objective of taking back our lovely country‚ Malema said‚ adding that the office of the President belonged to the people and not to the ANC or Zuma".

"The people outside Gauteng who can't make it to the march, they must pick busy streets with homemade placards, stand in solidarity and demand for Zuma to step down", said EFF spokesperson Mbuyiseni Ndlozi.

He said he would also like to see South Africans making more progress in fighting poverty and inequality.

  • Leroy Wright