More than 30,000 people marched in South Africa’s capital Pretoria on Wednesday calling on President Jacob Zuma to quit, keeping up pressure from the streets on the leader over his handling of the struggling economy.
The protesters marched through the city and held a rally at a field outside the Union Buildings, the site of Zuma’s offices. Zuma, who turned 75 on Wednesday, has survived previous protests. But the main opposition party, Democratic Alliance (DA) and other parties behind the protest believe they can drum up support to force Zuma out of office following his dismissal of respected Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan in a cabinet reshuffle. South Africa’s economy has grown lethargically over the last six years and the jobless rate stands near record levels. Analysts say the political crisis is making it hard to reform the economy, improve social services and fight crime.
The ruling African National Congress (ANC) party has rejected calls for Zuma to step down. He has denied repeated allegations of corruption since winning power in 2009. More than 60,000 people marched on Friday calling for him to quit. The ultra-left Economic Freedom Fighters and other parties took part in Wednesday’s protest, dubbed “National Day of Action”. “He is misusing state money,” said 21-year-old student and Pretoria resident Thomas Monyoko wearing a red EFF T-shirt. “Let the message be clear today that Zuma is no longer a credible president of South Africa,” Economic Freedom Fighters leader Julius Malema said. “We don’t care whether you are white, whether you are Indian, whether you are black, we are here to defend the future of our children.”
Zuma had accused Friday’s marchers of having racist motives. Like Friday, a mixed racial profile of people attended Wednesday’s rallies but there were less white people. Patricia Maguire, a white 40-year-old risk analyst who also took part in Friday’s protest, held a sign saying: “Recall The Wrecking Ball,” referring to Zuma. “I don’t think this is a party thing, it is a governance issue. I can’t see how anyone cannot see that he is critically destructive,” said Maguire, who said she had no party affiliation.