JOHANNESBURG (AA) – Thousands of South Africans calling for the removal of President Jacob Zuma marched in cities across the country on Wednesday.
The protests came after Zuma sacked two finance ministers last week, further damaging South Africa’s economy.
They follow recent student protests, as well as claims of widespread corruption and a succession struggle in the ruling African National Congress (ANC).
“The purpose of our march was to send a message to President Zuma to resign or be removed by the African National Congress Party for being reckless in his leadership,” organizer Marc Heywood told Anadolu Agency.
The marches in Johannesburg, Pretoria, Cape Town and Port Elizabeth had been triggered by Zuma’s decision to remove respected finance minister Nhlanhla Nene and replace him with David Van Rooyen, a relatively obscure MP. Pravin Gordhan – finance minister from 2009 to 2014 – was appointed to the role on Sunday night.
The decision to sack Nene shook the markets and the rand fell to a record low.
“President Zuma ignores public opinion but now our calls are getting too loud for him to ignore,” Heywood said.
Protesters used the #ZumaMustFall hashtag on social media in an echo of previous protests against university fees and a colonial-era statue.
The ANC, which has been in power since 1994 and won by a landslide in last year’s general election, defended Zuma’s leadership in a statement released on Tuesday.
However, Zwelinzima Vavi, the former general secretary of the powerful Congress of South African Trade Unions, told Anadolu Agency there was widespread corruption and poor leadership under Zuma.
“Everybody knows how badly our country is governed,” he said by telephone.
Signs daubed with messages such as “No reconciliation with corruption” and “South Africa is not a monarchy” were seen at the protests.
“Our country will be become a banana republic if President Zuma is not recalled from office by his ANC party,” one female protester told Anadolu Agency in Johannesburg.
However, constitutional law professor Shadrack Gutto told Anadolu Agency that Zuma “cannot be removed because of appointing or dismissing a minister.”
A protester who identified himself as Robelo said he was happy to see South Africans united against bad leadership. “Some people have actually delayed their holidays to be here at the protest,” he said.
Wednesday was the Reconciliation Day public holiday.
“The ruling party is no longer listening to the masses,” Reggie Mokofeng said. “Although there is much evidence that corruption is rife in the government, nothing is being done.”
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