South Africans hold nationwide protests against Zuma

South African opposition rights groups march against Zuma

President Jacob Zuma on Monday described last week's protests demanding that he resign as racist.

The marches were sparked by the African National Congress (ANC) leader's decision to reshuffle his cabinet late on March 30th, an undertaking that involved the sacking of six ministers.

Ramaphosa said what Zuma had done was "unacceptable" and went public with his sentiments.

While the size of the protests took many government officials by surprise, public opposition to Mr Zuma's rule had been growing steadily for the past few years because of his poor handling of the economy and allegations that he and his allies are corrupt.

This march was mainly made up of people who had never taken to the streets before, unlike so many South Africans did when they fought for freedom pre-1994, and learned to appreciate what it takes to do that.

The rand has tumbled more than 11 percent since March 27 when Zuma ordered Gordhan to return home from overseas talks with investors, days before firing him from the cabinet.

"Be fearless and comradely, confront a comrade if you have got problems with (a) comrade, don't use comrades who have died as a platform to perpetuate disunity", he said without mentioning any names.

Mr Zuma dodged further calls for him to step down by powerful bodies in the country, such as unions and the South African communist party.

The move prompted ratings agency S&P to downgrade the country's investment grade to junk status.

Opposition parties are now planning another march to the Union Buildings on Wednesday. Yet the prospect of Mr. Zuma stepping down appears unlikely.

Several protesters told DW's correspondent why they were displeased with President Zuma's leadership. "He can't be summarily wished away", says governance specialist at the Unisa School of Governance, Dumisani Hlope.

"He has a keen ability to read the internal balance of power, and then consolidate his power accordingly", notes Hope. He is a former ANCYL president and yet another former youth leader Fikile Mbalula was elevated from Sports to Ministry of Police. "Most black people are born in junk status so they aren't bothered".

Bheka Ntuli from Durban said it was time South Africa sought a commited and passionate president who would listen to the masses. The downgrade will add to pressure on Zuma to leave office, he said.

In the letter, signed by "South Africans here today at South Africa House on Trafalgar Square, London, United Kingdom", the group said: "We are writing to you as South African citizens to ask that you put the Constitution first and remove Zuma from office".

"For government it creates a crisis of legitimacy...it makes the government's job rightly or wrongly much more hard".

She said the downgrade, last week's cabinet reshuffle and the "feverish" political environment will result in a longer period of low growth and low confidence, poor employment prospects and tax revenues, and high inflation if the country's currency weakens.

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