A peaceful protest outside the Gupta compound ended in fisticuffs, and police tear-gassed ANC protesters in the Joburg CBD
Tens of thousands of people across SA protested against President Jacob Zuma on Friday.
One protest that took place outside the Gupta family compound in Saxonwold‚ Johannesburg‚ degenerated into fisticuffs when Black First Land First members arrived.
Initially‚ the “Black Friday” and Black First Land First protesters sang at each other‚ with the latter planning to disrupt the demonstration. But the anti-Zuma protesters refused to be cowed and the situation became tense.
Police separated the warring groups late on Friday afternoon using police tape and later asked the protesters to go home.
Those who had been gathering in groups from noon‚ carrying placards calling for Zuma to go‚ refused to leave.
Black First Land First protesters said they would defend the Gupta family‚ despite the presence of no fewer than five police vehicles that had been monitoring the otherwise peaceful demonstration.
They also accused former finance minister Pravin Gordhan of protecting white people and “white” banks.
Violence broke out in the Johannesburg CBD, where police fired rubber bullets and tear gas at some ANC protesters, injuring a man and a woman, a Reuters witness said.
Police were trying to prevent the ANC supporters from breaching a cordon separating them from backers of the opposition DA.
The DA, which had called for the marches, held a rally of more than 10,000 people a few streets away that was calm.
Zuma’s sacking of Pravin Gordhan in the reshuffle last Thursday has outraged allies and opponents alike, undermined his authority and caused rifts in the governing party.
Rating agencies Fitch Rating and S&P Global Ratings both cited Gordhan’s dismissal as finance minister as a reason for their downgrade of SA’s sovereign credit rating to “junk” this week.
Syriana Maesela, 65, a retiree, was on her way by train to Pretoria to join the march to the Union Buildings, carrying a South African flag.
“I am marching to get the ANC to take us seriously and respect our wishes by letting the president go,” she said. “We are unhappy about his leadership because he does not seem to care about the people.
“The irony is I did the same thing in 1976 when I was a student. I also marched then,” she said, referring protests against the apartheid regime.
A journalist for Gupta-owned television news channel African News Network 7 had water poured over her by anti-Zuma marchers wearing Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) T-shirts at the Union Buildings.
A shaken Nomusa Phungula said she was crossing live when the group accosted her on Friday‚ calling her names before pouring water over her.
Close to tears‚ she repeatedly asked: “Why are they pouring water on me?” as other journalists tried to console her.
“They were arrogant and they said what is it that I would do when I asked why they were attacking me‚” she said.
The EFF has previously made clear its hostile attitude towards ANN7 reporters and has sworn never to grant them interviews‚ labelling the reporters Gupta agents.
The incessant blare of “vuvuzela” trumpets stirred the 5,000-strong crowds. Hundreds of motorbikes, many waving South Africa’s flag, roared past the crowd, who cheered them on.
Motorists and passengers pumped their fists in the air.
Zuma has welcomed one of the marches, by Save SA, that was planned for outside the Union Buildings in Pretoria, saying it was the civil society group’s legal right to do so.
Crowds gather outside the Union Buildings. (Adriaan Basson, News24)
Pretoria – Political party leaders backed Save South Africa’s march to the Union Buildings on Friday calling for President Jacob Zuma to resign.
The SACP’s second deputy general secretary Solly Mapaila told News24 that African National Congress MPs needed to respect their oath of office rather than pay allegiance to an individual.
The party joined the Save SA march after it was denied permission to hold its own one.
Mapaila said the ANC’s national working committee (NWC) was a faction belonging to Zuma.
“Unless it frees itself from that faction, it will not understand what’s happening here in this country that it seeks to lead.”
Democratic Alliance leader Mmusi Maimane told protesters that Zuma was “junk”, and not the country. He said the march was the beginning of a movement.
“We are not a junk country. We have a junk president. We will remove junk so South Africa can become prosperous.”
Political leaders pleaded with protesters to implore their MPs to vote for the motion of no confidence in Zuma on April 18.
Cope leader Mosiuoa Lekota said South Africans were misled by ANC “scoundrels”.
“In 1993, Nelson Mandela told the workers and all of us, if the ANC does to you what the apartheid government did to you, then you must do to the ANC what you did to the apartheid government.”
Freedom Front Plus leader Pieter Groenewald said the country needed to change to a federal system of government.