Calls on Zuma to Quit Hailed at Anti-Apartheid Leader's Funeral

  • Finance Minister Gordhan receives standing ovation at ceremony
  • Anti-apartheid activist Kathrada urged Zuma to resign in 2016

Mourners at a funeral for a prominent anti-apartheid activist applauded calls for South African President Jacob Zuma to resign, while the finance minister he’s feuding with, Pravin Gordhan, received a standing ovation from the crowd of several thousand.

Zuma was asked by the family of Ahmed Kathrada, who died Tuesday at the age of 87, not to appear at the ceremony on Wednesday that was attended by senior members of the ruling African National Congress, including Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa and party Secretary-General Gwede Mantashe.

Ahmed Kathrada’s funeral in Johannesburg, March 29.

Photographer: Mujahid Safodien/AFP via Getty Images

Kathrada wrote to the president last year asking him to step down after the nation’s top court found that he violated his oath of office by refusing to repay taxpayer money spent on his private home. When former President Kgalema Motlanthe read out extracts of the letter, the crowd rose to applaud.

“His letter went without any formal reply,” Motlanthe said at the ceremony in Johannesburg. Kathrada “found the current South African political leadership wanting on many fronts. He did not hesitate to call for the resignation of the president of the country, with whom the buck stops.”

The ceremony highlighted the deepening anger among long-time supporters of the ruling ANC with the direction of Zuma’s administration. Kathrada spent more than 26 years in jail after he was convicted of treason along with Nelson Mandela and six other activists for plotting to overthrow the white-minority government.

Zuma, 74, has been warring with Gordhan, 67, over control of state finances almost since he appointed the finance minister in December 2015.

On Monday, the president told members of the Communist Party, which supports the ANC, that he planned to fire Gordhan because he’s blocking his policies, according to three people with knowledge of the matter who asked not to be identified because a public statement hasn’t been made.

Zuma had earlier ordered Gordhan to cancel a series of meetings with investors in London and the U.S. and return home. The presidency hasn’t provided a reason for the decision.

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