Published: Tue, April 18, 2017
World | By Tasha Manning

South African president accuses protesters of racism

Speaking at a memorial to commemorate the 24th anniversary of the assassination of anti-apartheid and Communist Party leader Chris Hani - whose murder led to nationwide riots - Zuma said South Africa had not yet built a non-racial society decades after white-minority rule ended in 1994.

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.

"Differences over the country's expensive nuclear programme preceded the dismissal of a previous finance minister, Nhlanhla Nene, in December 2015, and in Fitch's view, may have also contributed to the decision for the recent reshuffle".

Fitch Ratings agency on Friday downgraded South Africa to junk status, citing the removal of Pravin Gordhan as finance minister. "South Africans can no longer stand on the sidelines and watch President Jacob Zuma ruin our beloved country, which we struggled so hard for".

The protesters who gathered outside the South African High Commission in Trafalgar Square, London, were chanting, "Zuma must go". "I was in Cape Town which probably saw the biggest march in the country today - there were over one hundred thousand people on the streets in the city center".

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.

Ratings agency S&P Global also cited Gordhan's exit as a major factor in its decision to downgrade South Africa's credit rating on Monday, making it harder and more expensive for the country to borrow money on worldwide markets.

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"The bottom line is we are paying for the consequences of the political regime that has lost direction", said Gary van Staden, analyst at NKC African Economics. "That hope is alive in our country".

Further demonstrations are planned on Wednesday ahead of a parliamentary motion of no confidence in the president on April 18.

The leader of the main opposition Democratic Aliiance (DA) Mmusi Maimane, who led the demonstration in Johannesburg, said the protests were about protecting the hard-earned democracy of Nelson Mandela.

"The detailed impact of the new leadership and newly acquired junk status on the economy will unfold in the months and years to come", she said.

The protesters, under aegis of South African Diaspora Group presented a memorandum to the South Africa's deputy high commissioner in United Kingdom, expressing concern about the economic prospect of the country of their birth. Zuma still retains the backing of powerful factions within the ruling ANC party.

Zuma's ruling party, the African National Congress, has an absolute majority in parliament, but the opposition expects numerous ruling MPs to break the party discipline and vote conscientiously.

Nobel laureate Desmond Tutu, 85, made a rare public appearance to support the protests. "Freedom for all South Africans", he said.

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