South African President Jacob Zuma turned 75 on Wednesday as a sea of demonstrators welled up in Pretoria calling on him to quit. The opposition is hoping to chip away at his solid parliamentary majority.
Tens of thousands of people gathered in the South African capital of Pretoria to protest against President Jacob Zuma on Wednesday.
The protestors converged on Union Buildings, the official seat of the South African government and the site of the president’s offices, for what they have dubbed a National Day of Action.
Zuma faces a no-confidence motion in parliament on April 18. But he has already survived four previous attempts to unseat him because his ruling African National Congress (ANC) commands a comfortable majority in the National Assembly.
But the main opposition Democratic Alliance (DA) party and others behind the protests believe they can summon up enough support to force Zuma out of office after he dismissed respected finance minister Pravin Gordhan.
Gordan’s removal sent South Africa’s rand currency plummeting and last week two ratings agencies downgraded South Africa’s sovereign debt to junk status.
Ex-ministers abandon their seats
Gordan was sacked in a cabinet reshuffle two weeks ago. In the meantime, four former cabinet ministers who lost their jobs in the move have resigned their seats in parliament. The latest was former public administration minister Ngoako Ramathlodi, who was following in the footsteps of a former energy minister, an ex-transport minister and a former deputy finance minister.
Zuma has become a flashpoint of worry about government corruption and mismanagement in Africa’s most industrialized economy, where growth is lethargic and unemployment chronically high.
The protests against Zuma are uniting groups with sharply contrasting ideologies. The DA includes many members of the white minority that still controls much of the economy 23 years after the end of apartheid. The smaller Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) says it seeks the rapid transfer of land and industry to South Africa’s poor black majority. Party leader Julius Malema told a crowd of his supporters, clad in their signature red, outside Union Buildings on Wednesday that “Zuma is no longer a credible president of South Africa.”
One 25-year-old woman protestor told DW of her fears that Zuma’s recklessness as president could ruin the future for her generation.
“We are tired of Zuma. He must fall now. I mean now, today on his birthday,” she said.
Key Zuma allies, including the South African Communist Party and COSATU, the country biggest labor group, have joined calls for his resignation. But the ANC continues to support him and says it will vote against the no-confidence motion.
However, opposition parties are taking legal action to try and force a secret ballot. They believe that if they succeed they will have a better chance of removing Zuma because ANC dissidents need not fear reprisals.
Zuma was not in Pretoria for his birthday. He was set to mark the occasion at a public celebration in Soweto, the township outside Johannesburg which played a key role in the struggle against apartheid.