30 000 birthday wishes for Zuma

MASS ACTION: Thousands of people march to the Union Buildings yesterday to demand that President Jacob Zuma resign as the president
Picture: MASI LOSI

But not what he wanted

As President Jacob Zuma sang, danced and cracked jokes at his 75th birthday celebrations in Soweto yesterday, more than 30 000 people marched in Pretoria calling on him to quit.

Opposition parties who joined forces after the nationwide rallies against Zuma on Friday, held hands as they led their supporters through the streets of the city and held a rally at a field outside the Union Buildings

Police said the event had been peaceful.

“You came out in large numbers and sent a strong message,” EFF leader Julius Malema told the crowd.

“We don’t care whether you are white, whether you are Indian, whether you are black. We are here to defend the future of our children.

“We are united on the purpose of winning back our beautiful country.”

A string of events throughout the day put a further blight on Zuma’s not-so-happy birthday. They included:

ANC national executive committee member Mathole Motshekga writing to ANC secretary-general Gwede Mantashe, requesting an urgent NEC meeting to discuss Zuma.

He said the increasing public demands for Zuma to quit were harming South Africa.

Embattled Hawks boss Berning Ntlemeza was fired with immediate effect after the Pretoria High Court dealt a decisive blow against him.

Ntlemeza suffered a double blow when judges Peter Mabuse‚ Jody Kollepen and Selby Baqwa unanimously dismissed his leave to appeal against last month’s Pretoria High Court decision that his appointment – as one of the country’s most powerful policemen – be reviewed‚ and then‚ just hours later‚ ruled that he must vacate his office.

Police Minister Fikile Mbalula’s spokesman‚ Vuyo Mhaga‚ said they would comment today on the ruling.

UK public relations firm Bell Pottinger – accused of stoking racial tension in South Africa – cut ties with the Gupta family.

The controversial company claimed it was the target of a politically driven smear campaign in South Africa.

Bell Pottinger was allegedly part of an aggressive strategy to portray the Guptas as victims of a conspiracy involving “white monopoly capital”.

Former public service and administration minister Ngoako Ramatlhodi became the latest MP to quit parliament after being dropped from Zuma’s cabinet last month.

He follows three other axed ministers – Dipuo Peters‚ Tina Joemat-Pettersson‚ and deputy finance minister Mcebisi Jonas – who quit one after the other last week.

In an interview with the Sunday Times last week, Ramatlhodi expressed regret at helping propel Zuma to power.

In another development, parliament announced late yesterday that it had postponed a planned vote of no confidence in Zuma on April 18 at the request of the DA.

The party had requested the delay pending the outcome of a Constitutional Court case to seek a secret vote by MPs. The new date has not yet been set.

“At this moment of crisis, we, as political parties, put our differences aside for one common cause – to save South Africa from Jacob Zuma,” Gauteng DA leader John Moodey said.

“[Zuma’s supporters] will do everything to stay in power, even intimidating MPs.

“With a secret ballot, we could put Zuma out by a huge majority.

“Even if it doesn’t succeed, I can guarantee you that we will have a coalition government in 2019.”

Zuma brushed off the calls by the opposition for him to step down.

“I don’t get stressed,” he said at his birthday bash in Kliptown.

“Stress is a white man’s disease‚” he said, chuckling.

He called on the ANC members to ignore the actions of the opposition‚ saying it was their job to oppose anything and everything done by the ruling party.

ANC deputy secretary-general Jessie Duarte was the only member of the party’s top six to attend the birthday bash.

Malema, meanwhile, dismissed Zuma’s claim that those protesting against him were racist.

“If not wanting Zuma is racism, then we are proud racists,” Malema told the crowd gathered outside the Union Buildings.

Moodey said the march was an expression of people’s power.

“Zuma and his acolytes said that we are racist,” he said.

“Show me the racists here today – we are patriots,” he said.

“We stand united for a united South Africa.”

COPE leader Mosiuoa Lekota told the crowd the recent comments about race went against ANC policy.

He was also referring to comments made by Ekurhuleni mayor and Zuma ally Mzwandile Masina, who reportedly warned whites and civil-society groups who had called for the president to resign that things might get “very, very rough”.

Speaking in isiXhosa and addressing Zuma, Lekota said the majority of those marching against him were black and wanted him to go.

“Do what the people of South Africa are asking you to do,” he urged.

UDM leader Bantu Holomisa said opposition parties had gathered to send a signal to the ANC that although they respected that the electorate had given the party the mandate to rule, South Africans were concerned it was “allowing this land of ours to decline under its watch”.

“The powers that be remain unmoved and become defensive when loyal South African citizens raise such points,” he said.

“We must find a vehicle that will provide a safe space for us, irrespective of political affiliation, to hammer out a common vision, binding to all, of how we should address our country’s problems.”

Malema said opposition party leaders had proved they had South Africa’s interests at heart and not petty politics.

“When South Africa is threatened, we put aside our differences.

“We must salute these leaders because when we are united, we will never be defeated by an illiterate president,” he said.

Malema urged supporters to organise marches in all provinces and major cities.

Emily Mohapi, 94, despite battling sore knees and dependent on her walking stick, left her home in Protea South, Soweto, at 6am and got on a bus to join the march.

“I do not have a house, I live in a shack. I do not have water and none of my children are working. There is nothing to rejoice about,” she said.

“What I want to see now is Zuma gone because he is destroying instead of building our country.”

Ramesh Kana, a 42-year-old filling station owner from Johannesburg, said: “I am unhappy about corruption, the axing of our finance minister [Pravin Gordhan].

“He was doing a fantastic job – he was keeping our good [investment grade] status and his axing was done for the benefit of a few people and not for the whole country.”

Kana said the ANC had capable and moral leadership but the good people were being sidelined by the corrupt few.

First-year University of Pretoria genetics student Hannah Snyman, 18, said she could not stand by while “my future is being destroyed by people who are not fit to rule”.

“I have everything to lose if the current situation continues.

“There is no guarantee this march will bring change, but it is better to try than to fold our arms and continue as if everything is okay.” – Additional reporting by AFP, Reuters

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