- By Nontokozo Mhlongo
It was a day dubbed “Black Friday” as thousands of South Africans mourned for the state of the country and called for President Jacob Zuma to step down.
Young and old, white and black, rich and poor took to the streets of the country chanting “Zuma must fall”.
The peaceful demonstrations saw civil society groups, political parties and religious leaders march to the office of government at the Union Buildings in Pretoria.
Thousands also marched to Parliament asking the president to step down and to stop being a Gupta puppet.
Meanwhile South Africans living in New York as well as England showed solidarity by marching to the South African embassies.
Citizens voiced their concerns about the way the country is being misgoverned and that Zuma has allowed the state institutions to be captured for the benefit of his friends.
The calls for the President to step down have been there for a long time now, but grew louder after Zuma’s cabinet reshuffle.
The reshuffle saw former Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan, his deputy Mcebisi Jonas fired along with 13 other ministers and deputy ministers.
Many saw this as a move by the President to get rid of the people who were standing in his way and that of his associated beneficiaries such as the Gupta family.
Within days of the reshuffle two ratings agencies; Standard and Poor’s and Fitch downgraded South Africa to junk status causing the rand to fall.
Many South Africans saw this as Zuma disrespecting his oath of office and bringing the country down to its knees.
Organizers of the march said they had hoped the mass demonstration had sent a strong message to the President; that the cries of the people would hit the Members of Parliament and convince them to vote in favour of a motion of no confidence in Zuma.
Protest enter second stage
Unfortunately the message did not reach the country’s number one as intended, because according to him; he only saw a bunch of racists making much ado about nothing.
The not deterred civil society groups promised many more demonstrations across the country and called on all South Africans not to grow weary.
Before the President could catch his breath, round two of the anti-Zuma marches took place on his 75th birthday the 12th of April.
Opposition parties joined forces and called on all their members to partake in the march. Once again thousands and thousands of people took to the streets, with the parting shot: “If Zuma does not fall then South Africa will fall.”
Zuma was at the Walter Sisulu Square in Kliptown, Johannesburg attending his birthday celebratory rally organized by the African National Congress.
The President appeared unfazed by all the commotion as he danced and laughed. He even stated that he is not stressed because he does not know what stress is. According to him, it’s not a black man’s disease.
The opposition leaders said it was imperative for South Africans to unite against corruption, greed and the Guptas. The Gupta family has been implicated in the State Capture report released by former public protector Thuli Madonsella.
The Gupta family and State Capture
The Gupta brothers relocated from India to South Africa in 1993. There’s no clear indication of their net worth but there is evidence that they have accumulated a lot of wealth through their political influence. President Zuma has been accused of allowing the Gupta family to wield undue influence to advance their business interests.
They also courted former President Thabo Mbeki but the relationship did not go far. Former Democratic Alliance leader, Helen Zille also in the past received a donation for the party from the Guptas.
Ousted Finance Minster Pravin Gordhan has accused the family of being involved in “suspicious” transactions worth about 490 million US dollars, which they deny.
South Africa’s major banks reacted to this information by closing the Gupta bank accounts. The relationship between the Zumas and the Guptas is one of the reasons behind increasing calls for Zuma to step down.
Things fall further apart for Zuma, ANC
Things continued to get worse for the country’s head of state. Known as a charismatic people’s person, he had anticipated on using May Day celebrations to regain support and woe his critics.
Sadly for him that did not happen, instead of cheers he was met with boos and jeers at the annual rally which was held in Bloemfontein. No one could get a word in as labour federation; Cosatu members refused to be addressed by anyone until Zuma left the venue.
This led to Cosatu canceling all speeches including the one by Jacob Zuma. Now what made this incident significant is because it was coming from within.
The booing signified the loss of one of the ANC’s most powerful mobilizers. Cosatu has traditionally used its capacity, to help the ANC win previous elections.
What happened at this rally shows that the ANC is no longer coherent and that the Trade Unions would like for the President to voluntarily go.
ANC national chairperson Baleka Mbete, National Executive Committee member Naledi Pandor and Deputy Secretary General Jessie Duarte were booed in various provinces where May Day rallies were held.
Cosatu has backed Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa and not former African Union Commission Chair Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma to become the ANC’s next president. Losing the union’s vote of confidence could see unimaginable results in the 2019 elections if a pro-Zuma candidate does take over in December’s electoral conference.
With the cries growing louder, everything has been left in the hands of the ruling party to listen and get rid of Zuma as they did former President Thabo Mbeki.
Zuma has said on numerous occasions, that he will step down when his time as the party’s leader comes to an end in December.
What the people want is here and now, not tomorrow. Many feel the president will continue to do more damage in the next few months and cannot allow one man to dismantle South Africa and its future.
The president is also facing a motion of no confidence debate in parliament which was postponed after the Constitutional Court allowed parties to file opposing papers in the United Democratic Movement’s urgent application for a secret ballot.
This is a move to give ANC members of Parliament protection as many do not want to be seen as publicly selling out one of their own.
Protection is also deemed necessary for some ANC members who have reportedly received death threats as they have been perceived as being anti-Zuma.
Of course many feel with or without the secret ballot it’s highly unlikely that members of the governing party would actually vote for the motion. The ANC holds 249 seats while other parties make up 151.
Meanwhile President Thabo Mbeki has urged MPs to put the country first when they vote on a motion of no confidence.
If the motion is unsuccessful Zuma critics can hope that the court will soon, before the ANC’s electoral conference order that the charges of corruption and money laundering against the President be reinstated.
So for now, President Jacob Zuma is facing opposition from all corners and for how long the ANC is willing to stand by him is yet to be seen.
If all fails the only way for South Africans to get what they want is through the ballot box in the 2019 national elections, where voters can ensure that the ruling party is shown the exit sign. MA