Thousands of South Africans converged on the capital, Pretoria, to protest what they say is the abuse of state resources and institutions, ratcheting up the pressure for President Jacob Zuma to resign or be removed from office.
Chief executives of some of South Africa’s biggest companies are joining the protests along with members of civil rights, religious groups, opposition parties and a number of prominent members of the ruling African National Congress. They plan to converge on the High Court, where Zuma’s lawyers are seeking to block the release of a report by the nation’s graft ombudsman into allegations that the Gupta family members, who are friends of the president and are in business with his son, sought to influence cabinet appointments and state contracts.
“We have to come to terms with the fact that for as long as we have President Zuma as president of the country, it is not possible to turn the situation around,” Sipho Pityana, the chairman of gold producer AngloGold Ashanti Ltd. and convener of Save South Africa, which organised on Wednesday’s protest, told reporters in Pretoria. “We’ve told him that we believe he is no longer deserving to lead this country.”
Scandals have dogged Zuma in recent months, including a finding by the nation’s top court that he violated his oath of office by refusing to abide by a directive from the graft ombudsman to repay taxpayer money spent on upgrading his private home. He’s also been locked in a battle for control of the National Treasury with his Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan — who was charged for fraud last month before prosecutors abandoned the case for lack of evidence.
The political upheaval has weighed on South Africa’s rand and bonds and raised the risk of the nation’s credit rating being downgraded to junk.
“The importance of being here is to stand up and say what we stand for, which is the constitution and all the values enshrined in the constitution, as well as to say what we don’t like and what we don’t stand for, which is the inappropriate use of state institutions and corruption,” Standard Bank Group Ltd. co-Chief Executive Officer Sim Tshabalala said in an interview.
The National Health and Allied Workers Union, an ANC ally with about 300 000 members, urged Zuma on Tuesday to take the “honorable and courageous decision” and step down before his current term ends in 2019 and for his deputy Cyril Ramaphosa to replace him. The South African Democratic Teachers Union, National Union of Mineworkers and Police and Prisons Civil Rights Union are also set to call for Zuma’s resignation, Johannesburg-based newspaper Business Day reported Wednesday, citing union officials it didn’t identify.
Zuma, whose allies dominate the ANC’s leadership, has denied ever intentionally breaking the law and shrugged off calls to resign. Zuma shouldn’t shoulder the blame for the ANC’s failings and removing him won’t resolve South Africa’s problems, the New Age newspaper reported Wednesday, citing ANC secretary general Gwede Mantashe.
Cheryl Carolus, a former ANC leader, urged the party to act in the national interest and address the nation’s leadership void.
“Our county is in crisis,” she said. “We could have done a lot better if there was leadership. Our government and our ANC is missing in action.”
© 2016 Bloomberg
Key quotes from the Save South Africa media briefing
More than 40 CEOs from the CEO initiative, including Maria Ramos, Sim Shabalala, Mark Lamberti, Martin Kingston, Roger Jardim, Geoff Rothchild, Adrian Gore and professionals such as Dario Milo were at the Save South Africa briefing. Former ANC stalwarts Barbara Hogan, Cheryl Carolus, Judge Zac Yacoob were also there. Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan’s wife was also at the briefing
This is what they had to say:
- Hands off Pravin doesn’t mean he’s above law. Actually “dirty hands” off Pravin. Zuma knows his hands are dirty.
- Zuma is not alone. NWC and NEC can fire him, but don’t. The ANC should also be cleaned out.
- We have to clean up political parties. The ANC is first, because it is in government.
- Parliamentarians should go back to the constitution. Parliamentarians don’t even know the constitution and the Bill of Rights.
- We welcome business, but when we’re done here, we need to talk about fair labour practices, executive pay.
- We are with you in your fight against corruption, state capture. I’m here to speak for ANC not in favour of state capture, corruption.
- There are good people in the ANC and leadership who will support what happens here. Thank you to South Africans who stand with Pravin Gordhan and the two Sars officials.
- Leaders in South Africa need to be accountable
- Shaun Abrahams should ensure he has a winnable case if he decides to charge Gordhan in the rogue unit case.
- People who have economic power (business sector) must use it to defeat state capture.
- We cannot pick parts of the Constitution we like.
- We are here to overthrow state capture by lawful means.
- Hogan announced support for Save South Africa from Desmond Tutu, Corruption Watch, Section 27, Anglican Church, Council for the advancement of the Constitution.
- Also meetings today in Cape Town, Port Elizabeth, and elsewhere. The Cape Town meeting is at St Georges Cathedral led by Archbishop Thabo Makgoba.
See social media reaction to the marches below:
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And Johnny Clegg performed:
Sheila Sisulu is set to speak on behalf of stalwarts and there was a prayer for the removal of Jacob Zuma.
More images from the Save South Africa briefing