'We are not a junk country with a junk president!'

Violence broke out in Johannesburg as more than 30,000 people marched in South African cities to protest against President Jacob Zuma yesterday, demanding he quit after a cabinet reshuffle triggered the latest crisis of his presidency.

Largely peaceful protests were held across the country on Friday amid accusations of corruption following a cabinet reshuffle by Zuma, and in particular the removal of the widely respected Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan last week.

The ratings agency joins Standard & Poor's in stripping the nation of its investment-grade credit rating, leaving only Moody's yet to downgrade - although it is also now reviewing its score for South Africa.

This caused many people - black and white - to come out onto the streets in their tens of thousands, including many from his party the ANC, calling for Mr Zuma's resignation.

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

The leader of the main opposition Democratic Aliiance (DA) Mmusi Maimane, who led the demonstration in Johannesburg, said the protests were about protecting the hard-earned democracy of Nelson Mandela.

Many took to Twitter asking Zuma to step aside using the hashtag #ZumaMustFall.

In Johannesburg, police fired rubber bullets to disperse about 100 ruling party members who were making their way towards protesters, the African News Agency reported. "Ours is to stand united with the people of South Africa in defending our land against corruption", UDM leader Bantu Holomisa said. The Guptas are also accused of influencing the way President Zuma runs his state affairs.

Zuma's supporters also gathered to support the president. About 300 camouflage-clad veterans of the ANC's now-disbanded Umkhonto we Sizwe military wing ringed the party's Luthuli House building in downtown Johannesburg, mounting mock parades and singing in support of Zuma.

The president said some South Africans regarded "black people as being lesser human beings", but he gave no further details about the alleged placards and posters or where they had been seen.

Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa and ANC Secretary General Gwede Mantashe also openly criticised Zuma's decision to sack Gordhan in a rare public show of discord for the party.

"We will have, and plan to, engage civil society formations, as well as our colleagues in other political parties to mobilise support for the people's "National Day of Action" at the Union Buildings in Pretoria", they added.

Meanwhile, a motion of no confidence against Zuma will be debated on 18 April in Parliament.

According to the Sunday Times, Edward said: "That one is definitely going Rand or not he is out". Key allies of the ruling party, including the South African Communist Party and the country's biggest labor group, have urged him to resign.

  • Carolyn Briggs