Thousands of Nelson Mandela Bay residents gathered at the City Hall and added their voices to rallies and marches held nationwide yesterday, calling for President Jacob Zuma to step down.
The message from speakers at the rally, organised by civil society organisation Save SA, was for all South Africans to unite against corruption and greed, regardless of race, age, gender and political affiliations.
Nelson Mandela Bay’s Save SA co-organiser Khusta Jack said: “Those who seek to divide us as blacks and whites want to scatter our efforts, so that we are never able to have a maximum impact from the benefits of being a united people.
“We must reject their tactics of divide and rule. We must choose non-violent methods of struggle.”
Jack described Zuma as a politically illiterate president who disrespected his oath of office and took the population of the country for granted.
Save SA member Andile Ngqungqutha, who runs an NGO in the townships of the Bay, said: “We need to unite as South Africans. We need to unite in love because that is how our country came to be.”
He said the problem was not only Zuma but also the rest of the leadership in government who have forgotten the plight of the poor.
“If Zuma does not fall, then we will all fall. If Zuma does not fall, then South Africa will fall,” he said.
Religious leaders also took to the podium to call on people to make a united stand against the government.
Bishop George Irvine said: “When we were fighting apartheid and fighting for the establishment of a democratic South Africa, I never thought we would be back here, calling for a corrupt president to step down.”
Irvine said he believed the courts should step in and play a role in stripping Zuma of some of his powers.
“When your president is corrupt, there need to be other avenues to approach in recalling him,” he said.
Father’s House pastor George Georgiou said: “Mr President, it is time for you to step down. It is not because you are black sir, it is because you are corrupt.”
He said one of the biggest tragedies of apartheid was the fact that white people took too long to act.
“As a white man I am standing here today and saying that it took too long for white people to act. For that I am sorry. Let us not make the same mistake this time,” he said.
Alexander Road High matriculant Luthandolwethu Mboniswa, 17, was overcome with emotion and cried as she took to the podium.
She said too many people had fought for the future of South Africa and “we cannot allow one man to dismantle that”.
She described Zuma as a man who did not care about the people but only about his own greed.
The crowd filled the square outside City Hall while some people stood along John Kani (formerly Whites) Road and Govan Mbeki Avenue – some dressed in black, while others waved flags and placards calling for Zuma’s resignation.
A group of attorneys and other staff members from the law firms of Burmeister De Lange Soni (BDLS) Incorporated, Anthony-Gooden Incorporated, Annali Erasmus Incorporated and Lizelle Pretorius Incorporated gathered outside the Port Elizabeth High Court in Bird Street before donning their robes and walking to the rally.
BDLS Attorneys director Craig de Lange said: “As attorneys we need to show society that we are against the plundering of the country’s resources. We have to make our own contribution and we have a responsibility to assist civil society.”
Popular attorney Joanne Anthony said: “I told my staff that we are joining Craig at the rally and they can join or take a two-hour lunch and my entire staff complement is here.” Earlier, protests calling
for Zuma to step down got off to a mixed start in the Bay.
In Uitenhage, small groups braved the morning chill and gathered at intersections around Kamesh and Mosel, asking for motorists to “Hoot to fire Zuma”.
DA MPL Marshall von Buchenroder, a Uitenhage constituency leader, said: “The only way the president can be removed right now is for parliamentarians to see the people on street corners . . .
“Hopefully, it makes them realise why they are in the positions they are in. It is to consider the people first, and we want the president to go.”
Meanwhile, at Njoli Square in New Brighton, one of the busiest intersections in Port Elizabeth, it was business as usual.
Siyathanda Dloko, 24, of Kwazakhele, said he did not support Zuma and his faction, but the march did not “speak” to him.
“The organisers of this march have their interests at heart only. Where are they when youths complain about unemployment? This is an opportunistic march.”
Mama Jackie Mothupa, 48, who operates a small business, said residents were keen to join the protesters but the majority did not have sufficient information.
“It’s heartbreaking to see how one man can loot so much resources of our country at the expense of its citizens.”
In Mill Park, a small group waving South African flags gathered near the Mount Road intersection in Cape Road.
Dozens of motorists driving past the group hooted in support.
Several convoys of hooting cars, with flags waving, were spotted around the Bay.
– Additional reporting by Tremaine van Aardt, Riaan Marais and Hendrick Mphande