South Africans Stage Demonstrations Demanding Zuma Quits

  • Protests commence in at least three of the largest cities
  • March organizers say Zuma `has broken trust with the nation'

Protesters in three of South Africa’s largest cities demanded President Jacob Zuma resign a week after his firing of the country’s finance minister precipitated a rout in financial markets.

Thousands joined demonstrations organized by the Unite Against Corruption lobby group in Johannesburg and Cape Town, the largest cities, while a third demonstration commenced at Zuma’s offices in Pretoria, the capital, on a public holiday in South Africa.

Unite Against Corruption “is demanding that #zumamustfall because he has broken trust with the nation, that the ANC and business set clear targets and action plans against corruption,” the group said in an e-mailed statement on Wednesday, referring to the ruling African National Congress party.

The replacement of former Finance Minister Nhlanhla Nene with a little-known lawmaker, David van Rooyen, on Dec. 9 sent the rand to a record low and bond yields jumped to a seven-year high. Following the market rout, Zuma removed van Rooyen and replaced him with Pravin Gordhan, who served as finance minister for five years from 2009.

Consolidated Power

A former party spy chief, Zuma has consolidated his hold over the ANC since becoming leader in 2007 through his control of local branches. His colorful private life and the frequent public scandals surrounding him have drawn the ire of senior ANC members before. His refusal to accept any responsibility for 215 million rand ($14 million) of public money spent on a makeover for his private rural home drew rebuke from within his party.

“President Jacob Zuma has demonstrated beyond any reasonable doubt that he doesn’t have what it takes to be the leader of a sophisticated society and economy,” Zwelinzima Vavi, a former general secretary of the Congress of South African Trade Unions, an alliance partner of the ANC, said at the demonstration held in Johannesburg. “Corruption is threatening to destroy our future.” Vavi was expelled from the labor federation in March.

Some political parties such as the Economic Freedom Fighters criticized the #zumamustfall movement for only representing the interests of the middle class in a country where economic disparities among blacks and whites persist more than 21 years after apartheid ended.

‘Genuine Revolution’

“The genuine revolution against the ANC and Zuma will be black-led and will ultimately overthrow white monopoly capital and transfer land,” Julius Malema, the leader of the EFF which is campaigning for the nationalization of mines and banks, said on his Twitter account on Monday.

The ANC rallied behind Zuma after he bowed to demands to reverse his decision to appoint van Rooyen.

“The president’s willingness to change an earlier deployment in the face of our sluggish economic climate and representations from role players demonstrated bold leadership,” the National Working Committee, a group of mostly top ANC officials, said in a statement after it met on Monday.

“The ability of the leadership to review their positions in the face of legitimate concerns of our people are the hallmarks of a listening, responsive and accountable organization.”

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