South Africa's Zuma accuses protesters of racism after marches

South African President Jacob Zuma has branded protesters calling for his resignation "racists", saying they held placards that were derogatory about black people.

This march was mainly made up of people who had never taken to the streets before, unlike so many South Africans did when they fought for freedom pre-1994, and learned to appreciate what it takes to do that.

Pictures shared on social media on Friday showed large crowds assembling in Church Square in Pretoria, despite confusion over whether demonstrations in the capital are permitted by law.

Opposition leader Mmusi Maimane, head of the Democratic Alliance (DA), which has strong support among white people, had called for a march in Johannesburg, and held a rally of more than 10,000 people.

Friday's mass protests came a week after the sacking of former Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan, who triggered a tide of reactions against Zuma and led the credit rating agency Standard and Poor's to downgrade South Africa's rating to junk status.

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The ANC called on all South Africans to organize in a calm and measured fashion.

Mr Zuma has said there was nothing improper in the way he chose ministers.

MK veterans‚ wearing camouflage uniforms‚ were lined up outside Luthuli House to "protect" it from protesters calling on President Jacob Zuma to quit.

"We live in a free country", he said.

Rating agency S&P Global Ratings cited Gordhan's dismissal as one reason for its downgrade of South Africa to "junk" in an unscheduled review on Monday.

Zuma has come under fire in recent days - including from within his ruling African National Congress (ANC) party - after he sacked the widely respected Gordhan.

On Thursday, the ANC warned against violence during the protests.

Congress of the People wants to applaud all the people of South Africa for coming out in their thousands to demand that Zuma must step down.

Mr Zuma and the ruling party have been weakened by other scandals around the president.

The largely peaceful protests in Pretoria, Johannesburg, Durban and Cape Town appeared to attract a diverse mix of South Africans, but Zuma railed against those who participated.

Members of the ANC Youth League flee from teargas and rubber bullets fired by police, at the end of a march by the main opposition Democratic Alliance party in Johannesburg, April 7, 2017. The South African leader has faced several protests during his tenure, but remained in position due to the ANC's support.

He accused Zuma of continuously making plans to sidestep the law instead of enforcing it and said Zuma is trying his best to prevent the appointment of a judicial commission of enquiry into state capture.

"We can no longer stand by and let out country go to the dogs".

  • Leroy Wright