Protest rally, parliament no-confidence vote unlikely to spoil president’s party
Besieged but unfazed, President Jacob Zuma is set to be singing and dancing in Soweto, Johannesburg, at his birthday celebration rally today as thousands of protesters descend on Pretoria demanding he step down. At least 10 000 people are expected to join the second anti-Zuma march, this time organised by opposition parties the DA, COPE, IFP, EFF, ACDP, APC and UDM.
But Zuma will be at the Walter Sisulu Square in Kliptown attending his 75th birthday celebratory rally, organised by the ANC.
Former finance minister Pravin Gordhan – who with his deputy Mcebisi Jonas was axed by Zuma, angering South Africans – is also celebrating his 68th birthday today.
Gordhan said his plans were “very simple – relax and spend the day with family”.
On the eve of the mass action yesterday, Zuma was in Westonaria, where he conducted a site visit of an agri-park project.
Zuma appeared unconcerned by the growing calls for his removal and made no mention of the march, but instead beamed when the crowd burst out singing Happy Birthday.
The president is also facing a motion of no confidence debate in parliament.
Former president Thabo Mbeki urged MPs yesterday to put the country first when they voted, saying the Constitutional Court had outlined the role of MPs in its Nkandla judgment‚ which criticised parliament for not rapping Zuma over the knuckles by implementing the findings of the public protector.
Mbeki said that MPs must act as the voice of the people‚ “not the voice of the political parties to which they belong”.
As the political landscape continued to fracture, the SA Communist Party in Gauteng broke with the organisation’s sentiments about Zuma’s leadership, saying it would not be throwing its weight behind the march, as the EFF and DA were “bourgeois”.
The provincial SACP’s views are contrary to the SACP nationally, which held a special provincial council over the weekend and resolved that Zuma should resign over the cabinet reshuffle and its consequences.
UDM leader Bantu Holomisa said the march was not a numbers game, it was intended to deliver a message.
“Even if we are five, the message will be conveyed that Zuma is causing havoc.”
He urged marchers to ensure the protest was peaceful. “We cannot say we are ousting a rogue president but engage in hooliganism.”
The SA Police Service and Tshwane metro police have vowed to be out in full force to maintain law and order.
Marchers will start converging at Church Square from 9am, with the march to the Union Buildings scheduled to start at noon and end at 4pm.
Tshwane metro police spokesman Superintendent Isaac Mahamba said they had a solid plan to smoothly channel the crowds into Church Square.
Police Minister Fikile Mbalula and acting national police commissioner Lieutenant-General Khomotso Phahlane said the deployment of police officers had already begun.
Phahlane said police had been informed that at least 10 000 people were expected to take part in the march.
“We will have adequate numbers and equipment deployed,” he said.
“To ensure law and order‚ and that the march is peaceful‚ we call on the organisers to ensure that they have enough marshals in place to assist us.
“The success of tomorrow depends on all South Africans working together.”
He warned that those who tried to commit violence would be dealt with.